To date, 12 million children have been orphaned by AIDS, and 70 million more live with AIDS-affected caregivers within sub-Saharan Africa. Our programme of research has demonstrated heightened levels of physical, sexual and emotional abuse amongst children in AIDS-affected families. Despite increasing calls for intervention studies addressing child abuse in the developing world (UN 2008; WHO 2010) no interventions or research have yet targeted this high-risk group of AIDS-affected children. This project will develop and test, using a randomised controlled trial design, an evidence-based intervention to prevent and reduce child abuse within AIDS-affected families in South Africa.
The study takes an innovative approach, incorporating a tripartite collaborative process between scientists, policy-makers, and civil society, thus maximising cultural applicability and sustainability. The randomised controlled trial includes 1600 adult and child participants, with wait-list controls and 1-year post-test evaluation in a real-world setting. The research has the key aims of 1) Testing theoretical frameworks of causation and prevention of child abuse in the developing world; 2) Testing the efficacy of an intervention for reducing child abuse; (3) Examining potential intervention moderators and mediators; (4) Testing the feasibility of the intervention when implemented by community volunteers at a low cost; (5) Disseminating results within sub-Saharan Africa to inform policy and programming. This study capitalises on the PI’s position as a scientific advisor to Southern African governments and international NGOs, on the expertise of a senior advisory group of academics and policy-makers, and on an established research team. This research is of immediate necessity in promoting child development within the world pandemic of HIV/AIDS. It also goes beyond the state of the art in innovation, collaboration, and a commitment to the active engagement of science with civil society.