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June 2024

AIDS Care. 1993 ; 5(1): 5-22.

The impact of HIV/AIDS on the family and other significant relationships: the African clan revisited.

Ankrah EM.

Faculty of Social Sciences, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda.

Although changing in size, structure and function, the African family has persistently maintained its place as the central human social unit. Beyond the traditional African family--whether in the nuclear or the extended form--is a network of people, most of whom are connected by kin or blood relationships, termed the clanship system. Patterns of family treatment and care are deeply embedded in this wider kinship system. The AIDS epidemic has caused adverse psychosocial and economic consequences leading to change in the family structure, and thus disturbed the capacity of the nuclear and extended family to respond to the needs of members afflicted by HIV and AIDS. Hence, the clanship system could become the locus of AIDS activity designed to ensure the well-being and continuity of the family where its leadership undertakes to sustain, to reorganize, or to create wholly new families or structures among populations being devastated by AIDS. New associations based on common emotional bonds of caring beyond kinship ties will be necessary to support some vulnerable members. However, for such to prove durable in the troubled socio-economic context of Sub-Saharan Africa, these will need strong links to or derive their legitimacy from the resilient traditional social network, the African kinship system.

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