The challenge of protecting the rights of children affected by HIV/AIDS is far from unique to Kenya, and this research could have been conducted in any one of a number of African countries. Kenya was chosen partly because of the presence of a network of NGOs providing services to AIDS-affected children the staff members of which were generous enough to share their expertise with us, but also because the problem of children affected by AIDS has not figured as prominently in AIDS policy statements by the government as in many other countries.
Human Rights Watch conducted research for this report in Kenya in February and March 2001. For purposes of this work, we defined AIDS-affected children as those having a parent or guardian living with AIDS, those having lost a parent or guardian to AIDS, those living in households fostering children orphaned by AIDS, and those who were themselves living with AIDS.9 Because AIDS is rarely noted as a cause of death on death certificates and many of those living with the disease have not been tested for HIV or have not had test results communicated to them, it was necessary to work through intermediaries who knew the families well enough to know whether AIDS was a feature of their situation. The organizations that assisted us in this way were local NGOs that provide services to children in need of special protection or to families affected by AIDS.
Organizations identified families affected by AIDS, particularly those where children had been orphaned, and then further identified those where a child, parent, or guardian would be willing to talk about the impact of AIDS on the child. The population interviewed cannot be considered completely representative of the population of AIDS-affected families in Kenya because of its contact with service-providing organizations, but the bias is likely to be such that the general population of AIDS-affected children is in even worse circumstances than those of the families we encountered.
9 The Convention on the Rights of the Child defines children as "Every human being under the age of eighteen years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier." Convention on the Rights of the Child, art.1, G.A. Res. 44/25, annex, 44 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No.49) at 167, U.N. Doc. A/44/49 (1989). We also used this definition, though some young adults were interviewed about how they were affected by AIDS as children.