The psychological, social and development needs of babies and young children and their caregivers living with HIV and AIDS
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The early years of a child's life are critical. Over the last few decades, science has significantly enhanced what we know about the needs of infants, toddlers and young children, underscoring the fact that experiences and relationships in the earliest years of life play a critical role in a child's ability to grow up healthy and ready to learn. Research shows that it is during the first three years of life that the brain undergoes its most dramatic growth and developments, more so than at any other time in the child's lifespan. The key to supporting the healthy development of children is to ensure the translation of this research into effective, evidence-based policies
and practices. In their early years, children living in South Africa, along with those living in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa, face tremendous challenges to their survival, development and wellbeing. Most of these challenges arise from poverty and deprivation and are made worse by the impact of HIV and AIDS. Children may be directly impacted through infection, or indirectly through the quality of care they receive from absent or ill caregivers. Further, they may be distally affected through the effects of HIV and AIDS on their social support networks and their access to health-care services. There is growing recognition that pragmatic and effective solutions for addressing the plight of today's and tomorrow's most vulnerable children in South Africa are urgently needed. Most experts agree that children are best supported within their families and everyday systems of care. Building stronger families goes hand-in-hand with building stronger communities, and strong communities ensure that babies and young children have good health, strong families, and positive early learning experiences which will lay the foundation for a lifetime of success.