Complimentary Child Therapy & HIV/AIDS

The Case for Mixing Eastern & Western Traditions


By Pedro Jacob

Orphans infected and affected by HIV/AIDS experience emotional turmoil and cease receiving parental support even prior to the death of their parents or caregivers. These children are profoundly scarred by watching their parents fall ill,  incapacitated and unemployed, suffer stigmatisation, and finally, die. In some more drastic cases, the infection may be a consequence of rape which takes an insurmountable toll on the child. In the aftermath of their parents’ death, the orphans undergo a period of grief and depression which usually remains unnoticed and for which they receive no counselling or rehabilitation, a tragic fact which underlines the importance of organisations like Arms Around The Child.

When these children are now deprived of and long for physical contact in the form of hugs, kisses, and touch from their parents – the sort of contact which is critical for their development – counselling and other forms of alternative therapy assume a paramount importance in the development of their emotional coping mechanisms. Orphans have several emotional needs including a longing for the deceased mother, preoccupation with the physical features of the deceased, anger, insecurity, preoccupation with death, and fear of death.

In hard-hit areas, not only do these orphans deal with the death of their parents, but also the deaths of their teachers and other significant adults and members of the community.

At this point, it becomes apparent these are issues that can’t be tackled with medication as they deal with rather intangible components of this catastrophic epidemic. This is a broad and potentially complex question, with appropriate courses of treatment depending on both on the child’s struggles and the balance of safety and efficacy of the therapy being considered.

East meets West

There is a strong case to be made for interspersing eastern and western therapeutic treatments and healing practices.

– Counselling can help HIV/AIDS infected children cope with the emotional distress associated with their traumatic experience, which more often than not involves

– Mindfulness or other types of meditation can aid in improving mood, pain, itching, sleep, nausea, and concentration.

– Movement therapies, such as yoga or dance therapy increase a child’s feelings of ability, allow them to work off physical tension and strain, provide focus, and improve mood.

– Art therapy can help children cope with change, shed light on emotions and concerns that they may have trouble verbalising, and reinforce healing images created during guided imagery and hypnosis.

– Play therapy provides children with a chance to verbalise emotions linked to their predicament and can be immeasurably valuable in strengthening their self-esteem and , giving their young minds a chance to grow by understanding and internalising their suffering.

The Impact of HIV/AIDs

HIV/AIDS has had and continues to have a profound impact on the social and emotional development of its young victims, in addition to the most obvious damage to their health. Its impact on the lives of children infected with and affected by the virus is evident. It has left many communities, especially in Africa, completely shattered. HIV/AIDS has mercilessly taken the lives of many parents leaving behind orphaned children. Some of these children are in severe pain, they feel socially isolated and discriminated against because of the negative attitudes attributed to HIV/AIDS. Moreover, they don’t have the support of caretakers which is invaluable when tackling these complications.

These therapies can be made to work together with the ultimate goal of successfully tackling the emotional and intangible impacts of HIV/AIDS on children in a powerful manner.

Interested in issues mentioned in this article? Check out our Child Development Programme Page or speak to the Volunteer Invest team to find out more about our work and charity partners.

Pedro Jacob is a freelance writer. Find him and more of his wonderful writing here.