HIV / AIDS is leaving millions of children orphaned and living in situations of acute vulnerability. The idea that growing numbers of children orphaned by AIDS could pose a serious threat to individual and communal security in some African countries has gained substantial currency over the last five years. Consequently, few discussions on the effects of HIV / AIDS now fail to mention the seemingly common-sense connection between rising numbers of impoverished orphans and increasing levels of crime and conflict.
This connection is generally presented as a neat, linear relationship. Is this the case? Do children orphaned by AIDS represent a unique threat to security and stability or do they pose a predominantly humanitarian problem? Are there factors that may make a difference in determining the ultimate impact of the epidemic for both parentless young people and society? This paper explores these questions in the context of sub-Saharan Africa.