Growing up with HIV in Zimbabwe

Growing up with HIV in Zimbabwe

One day this will all be over

Ross Parsons


James Currey



Psychotherapy and ethnography are jointly employed to produce an account of HIV-positive children's lives (and deaths) in Zimbabwe that is sensitive to emotions and their social contexts.
The study explores the lives of children growing up HIV-positive in the eastern Zimbabwean town of Mutare at a time of severe crisis in the state, marked by impoverishment, organized violence and mass death. This ethnography grew out of a psychotherapeutic engagement with a group of children living with HIV.
The study examines children's experiences through the institutional domains of family and kin, clinics and other forms of healing, churches and religious practices, and experiences of dying and bereavement. Against patrilineal norms, much daily caring occurs in mothers' families. Clinics continue to offer partial western medical care despite daunting resource constraints. Western medicine sits on older templates of 'traditional' and 'spiritual' healing. Anti-retrovirals and other basic medicines are available but may exacerbate domestic discord and fail to meet more obvious physical symptoms. Children and their families appear to prefer spiritual alternatives to medical care, perhaps partly as a result of the severe limitations placed on the latter. A wide variety of religious practices, primarily Christian in a plethora of forms, flourish in the context. Dying may come to be seen by children as preferable to continued struggle against severe adversity. Child deaths are deeply imbued with religious practice and given voice through religious idioms.

Ross Parsons has extensive experience as a psychotherapist, a writer and a social researcher. He lives in Mutare and teaches anthropology and psychology at Africa University.

Weaver Press: Zimbabwe and Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia)


July 2012
7 black and white illustrations
207 pages
21x14.5 cm
ISBN: 9781847010483
Format: Hardback
James Currey
BISAC MED022020, SOC057000, SOC047000
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Table of Contents

Introduction: growing up with HIV in urban, eastern Zimbabwe
In this vale of tears: an ethnography of suffering and sorrow
Who cares? Family, kin and other forms of caring
Visible secrets: illnesses, exposure and disclosure
If I had faith: churches, spirits and healing
One day this will all be over: dying, death and grief
The heart remains: an epilogue


Provides a detailed and painfully engaging portrayal of the lives of HIV-positive children, with insights essential for assessing existing treatment and care programs. AFRICAN STUDIES QUARTERLY