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African Languages and Societies | Anthropology | Arts and Humanities | Family, Life Course, and Society | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Sociology


Care for AIDS orphans in southern Africa is frequently characterized as a "crisis", where kin-based networks of care are thought to be on the edge of collapse. Yet these care networks, though strained by AIDS, are still the primary mechanisms for orphan care, in large part because of the essential role grandmothers play in responding to the needs of orphans. Ongoing demographic shifts as a result of HIV/AIDS and an increasingly feminized labor market continue to disrupt and alter networks of care for orphans and vulnerable children. This paper examines the emergence of a small but growing number of male caregivers who are responding to the needs of the extended family. While these men are still few in number, the strength of gendered ideologies of female care means that this group of men is socially, if not statistically significant. Men continue to be considered caregivers of last resort, but their care will close a small but growing gap that threatens to undermine kin-based networks of care in Lesotho and across the region. The adaptation of gender roles reinforces the strength and resilience of kinship networks even when working against deeply entrenched ideas about gendered division of domestic labor.


NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in July 13 special issue (supplement 4) of AIDS Care: "Responsibility, Intimacy and Care: Psychological and Sociomedical Aspects of AIDS/HIV." Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published as:

Block, E. (2016). Reconsidering the orphan problem: The emergence of male caregivers in Lesotho. AIDS Care, 28(S4), 30-40. DOI: 10.1080/09540121.2016.1195480