Volume 37 Number 5
Published: October 1, 2006
A key strategy in the fight against HIV/AIDS is to safeguard the rights of those who are infected and at risk of infection. However, because of the association with sexuality, the rights of children are not often addressed and instead are represented as innocent and ignorant of sexuality and HIV/AIDS. This article challenges that representation, based on a study of seven and eight year-olds in a black township in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The researcher found that the children already knew a great deal and could talk to her comfortably about AIDS, sex and condoms. However, they had also learnt that they were not supposed to talk about such things in front of teachers or parents, or punishment might ensue. The article explores how children exercise, adjust and negotiate their knowledge of HIV/AIDS and of sexuality. It concludes with suggestions on the possibility of sexual rights in early childhood.