There are an estimated 56 million orphans and vulnerable children across sub-Saharan Africa. Communities typically care for orphan children through informal caring arrangements – either within or outside of kinship networks. Within Kenya, an estimated 250,000 children live on the streets. There is less research related to fostering attitudes of this special population than orphans and vulnerable children generally. Important research over the past decade has illuminated multiple ways in which children are made more vulnerable because of HIV, including parental death and street-migration from HIV-affected households. As HIV transitions from a terminal illness to a chronic, manageable one, research is also required to establish how parents living with HIV can be an asset to children. In this study, we assess whether mothers living with HIV were very willing to foster biologically-related children, and street-involved children, how these fostering attitudes differed from mothers not living with HIV, and whether differences in fostering attitudes by reported HIV status were mediated by social support, family functioning and general self-rated health. Approximately 40% of mothers living with HIV were very willing to provide long-term foster care to biologically-related or street-involved children. This was less than the percentage of mothers not living with HIV, who were very willing to foster biologically-related children (61%) or street-involved children (58%). Significant portions of these differences were explained by social support, family functioning and general self-rated health. Multi-sectoral approaches are suggested by these findings in order to improve the child-fostering capacity of mothers living with HIV. Improving social support, family functioning and general self-rated health among HIV-infected mothers may not only provide protective benefits for the mothers and their children, but also expand the community’s capacity to care for orphan and vulnerable children.
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