Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Professor Aniko Varpalotai



The advancement of the antiretroviral therapy (ARV) has extended life expectancy for children born with HIV, allowing them to live longer, healthier lives and to attend school. Conversely, medical evidence indicates that it is unlikely for HIV transmission to occur during social interactions, and therefore exclusion of HIV-positive children (CLWHA) from school is unwarranted. Kenya’s education policy guarantees every child the right to education and protection from all forms of discrimination. However, due to social misconstructions about HIV/AIDS, CLWHA’s continue to face various forms of stigmatization. Therefore, the aim of this study was to examine the manifestation and experiences of AIDS stigma and discrimination in Kenyan public schools. It specifically explored how these experiences affected social interactions and learning of CLWHA.

This ethnographic qualitative case study utilized social stigma theories (Goffman, 1963) to illuminate the educational realities of CLWHA and divulge relevant implications. The study utilized purposeful criteria sampling to select 22 participants. Data were collected using qualitative in-depth interviews, participant observation and document analysis. Emerging data from the interviews and observations were analyzed into themes. Owing to the participants’ vulnerability and the sensitive nature of this study, confidentiality was maintained at all levels and pseudonyms were assigned to all the participants and institutions.

The results indicated that stigma and discrimination were visible in the school milieu and negatively impacted the social interactions and learning of CLWHA. Lack of empowerment and inadequate resources suggested that CLWHA received limited support and stigma and discrimination were poorly addressed. The study however demonstrated that support was critical in enhancing learning and social integration of CLWHA into public schools. Based on the study findings, collaborative efforts and policies are necessary to enhance effective interventions aimed at reducing S& D in schools, and for directing government and school-based policies and practices towards improving CLWHA’s right to education, empowerment and support.

Key words: AIDS stigma and discrimination, HIV-positive children, empowerment and support, social interactions and learning