“My mother has aids”: Stories of adolescents living in Khayelitsha, South Africa


  • Petunia Tsweleng University of the Western Cape
  • Nicolette Roman University of the Western Cape


Adolescence, HIV, Khayelitsha, South Africa, Western Cape, Mother-adolescent relationships


HIV/AIDS is associated with death and for children death becomes a potential reality when they live in a household
where a parent has HIV/AIDS. The aim of this paper is to (a) explore the perceptions of and experiences of adolescents
living in households where the mother had HIV/AIDS, and (b) to describe the coping mechanisms used by adolescents
in these households.
A narrative approach was used to explore participants' story telling. Detailed interviews were conducted with 6
purposively selected isiXhosa-speaking adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15 in Khayelitsha. Narrative analysis
was used to analyse the data.
The stories reveal experiences of being told about the news of the mothers' illness, how they eventually coped, how
they accepted the situation and the experiences of other people knowing that their mothers had HIV/AIDS. Overall, the
stories reflect that the participants were coping with the mother being HIV/AIDS-positive and maintained hope for their
Stories reflected the emotionally challenging situations adolescents face. In order for adolescents to cope within these
challenging situations the environment needs to be supportive. This environment includes parents, family and friends.
Government should implement relevant programmes and support structures, which could also focus on combating
stigma and discrimination.