Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Grandmothers and Grandchildren Learning Together: The Intergrational Relationship Implications of the HIV and Aids Epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Grandmothers and Grandchildren Learning Together: The Intergrational Relationship Implications of the HIV and Aids Epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa

Article excerpt


This paper explores and critically examines the scholarship that has been built around the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (hereinafter, HIV and AIDS) epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa in the contexts of intergenerational learning between grandmothers and grandchildren. Not much has been indicated in scholarship around how intergenerational learning between grandmothers and grandchildren has ingeniously contributed significantly to the remarkable global responses to the epidemic. The discourse proceeds from the realization that in addition to dominant responses like prevention through behaviour change, research into the efficacious vaccines and universal access to treatment of HIV that began to be noticeable from the mid-2000s, intergenerational learning among grandmothers and grandchildren, though not commonly noticed and advertised as huge social transfer, should now be researched and supported as one of the fastest means of ameliorating the pains and sorrows caused by deaths from AIDS. Indeed, the paper makes the point that intergenerational learning should and must be one major consideration in the UNAIDS Fast Track Strategy aimed at ending the epidemic by year 2030. Unless this is done, the large scale phenomenon of children orphaned by the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa will remain a socio-economic and political scar in the sub-continent for a very long time.

It is true that some of those who joined the swelling ranks of HIV-positive people in the sub-continent are still alive today. So ordinarily, it would seem that we are winning the war against HIV and AIDS; but many of us know that we are not actually winning. For those who are HIV-positive but are today bubbling with life and move about like every other medically fit persons are simply living on what has become known in the literature as "borrowed time." These are the ones who have been privileged to experience what the Canadian famous friend of Africa Stephen Lewis (2005) calls "the Lazarus effect". Those who are a bit conversant with the biblical story of Lazarus in the Gospel of St. John at chapter 16 would recall that he was divinely brought back to life by the Lord Jesus Christ. That incident was one of the most spectacular miracles ever recorded in Scriptures! Lazarus lived many years after his divine encounter, but he later died. He went the way of all the earth.

What "the Lazarus effect" means for us, scientifically and in this context, is that those who are presently deriving relief from the use of antiretroviral drugs that generally boost their CD4 count will eventually die sooner than later and we would indeed be back to square one, not minding the amount of money previously spent in keeping them alive. But there are those who have remained strong as death imposes hopelessness on most Africans. Most Africans because you are either directly affected or indirectly affected by the afflictions suffered by your close relations and friends. Among those who have remained strong in these nauseating circumstances are the grandmothers and grandchildren whom we term heroines of Africa. These are the people who are daily learning together to assuage the negative effects of deaths from AIDS.

African grandmothers and grandchildren have stood resolute and tall willing to embrace death as it stands at the doors of our hearts ready to snatch away from our families; that is, the very persons with whom we had shared common destiny, hope and now a bewildering fate. In this paper, therefore, an attempt has been made to briefly explore:

1. Sub-Saharan Africa in context;

2. The present scenario of HIV AND AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa

3. How HIV AND AIDS has altered the objective and focus of intergenerational learning.

4. The daily pre-occupation of nascent heroes of grandmothers and grandchildren orphaned by AIDS.

5. Needed support for the grandmothers and grandchildren learning together. …

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