Resilience through participation and coping-enabling social environments: the case of HIV-affected children in sub-Saharan Africa

Many children and youths living in low-resource and high-HIV-prevalence communities in sub-Saharan Africa are presented with daily hardships that few of us can even imagine. It is therefore no surprise that most research reporting on the experiences of HIV-affected children in resource-poor settings focuses on their poor health and development outcomes, casting them as victims. However, there is a growing trend to draw on more strengthsbased conceptualisations in the study and support of HIV-affected children and youths. In this introduction to a special issue of The African Journal of AIDS Research, we cement this trend by providing a theoretical exposition and critique of the ‘coping’ and ‘resilience’ concepts and draw on the 11 empirical studies that make up this special issue to develop a framework that appropriates the concepts for a particular context and area of study: HIV-affected children in sub-Saharan Africa. The articles included here show, albeit in different ways and to different degrees, that the resilience of HIV-affected children in the region is an outcome of their agency and interactions with their social environment. Policy actors and practitioners working to support HIV-affected children in Africa should take heed of the proposed framework and draw on the research presented here to build coping-enabling social environments — presenting children and youths in Africa with greater opportunity to actively deal with hardship and work towards a more promising future.