Africa's AIDS Orphans special project: Africa's AIDS Orphans

The Monitor is following two South African couples who have opened their hearts and stretched their resources to give AIDS orphans a family. Olga Thimbela and Pontsho Monamodi took in six nieces, nephews, and cousins who lost their mothers to AIDS. Celina and Pule Seloma, an older couple whose only son was killed, are foster parents to an orphaned boy with HIV. They represent thousands of families on the front lines of an epidemic that is overwhelming South Africa. Their stories have heartbreak, but also tell of hidden strengths: faith, persistence, African traditions of generosity, and love.

Video: Living by 'ubuntu'
Monitor writer Scott Baldauf and photographer Melanie Stetson Freeman talk about the two families who have taken in AIDS orphans.
A spiritual perspective: Helping children in crisis
How can we help African children orphaned by AIDS?
Part 4
Image: Africa's AIDS Orphans ( Special Project)
Melanie Stetson Freeman

AIDS: How South Africa is beating the epidemic

AIDS turning point: The spread of infection has slowed sharply and those infected are living close-to-normal lives. Still, an exhausted nation deals with the aftereffects.

Image: Africa's AIDS Orphans ( Special Project)

AIDS: Orphanage closes its hospice, babies no longer dying

AIDS killed a baby a week during the height of the epidemic at the Cotlands child-care facility in South Africa. But because treatment has improved so much, infected babies aren't being abandoned as much, nor are they dying.

Olga Thimbela, Pontsho Monamodi

AIDS in Africa: The invisible burden

VIDEO: Monitor staff photographer Melanie Stetson Freeman reports on one South African woman's struggle to help keep her family, which has been affected by AIDS, together.

Image: Celina and Pule Seloma with Gift (PART 4 UPDATE)

Celina and Pule Seloma

The last time we saw Gift, in May 2010, he was living happily with his foster parents, Celina and Pule Seloma,Pule, in Dobsonville, outside Johannesburg (see Part 3 update, below.) An AIDS orphan, he was taken from his birth mother at the age of 4 because of neglect and had lived with the Selmoas ever since. But on the Monitor's last visit, his birth mother had reappeared and was lobbying to get him back.

A social worker told us that wouldn’t happen.

But upon recontacting the family in May, the Monitor was told that Celina died early this year after being injured in an auto accident while traveling with a social worker to get Gift's birth certificate. Since Pule was ill at the time, Gift – who would now be 10 – was sent back to live with his birth family. The Monitor was unable to do a fully reported story on Gift for our latest installment on AIDS and the affected families we have been covering for six years.

The Monitor will follow up on Gift – and reports we have that he now is living with his grandmother in Limpopo province, about 3 hours from Johannesburg by car – in future installments.

Part 3
Celina and Pule Seloma Watch video: Holding on to Gift

Video: Holding on to Gift

Gift's birth mother confronts his foster parents

The familiar heartbreak of South Africa AIDS orphans: Gift's foster mother is confronted by his birth mother.

Olga Thimbela, Pontsho Monamodi Watch video: A heart too big for their pocketbook?

Video: A heart too big for their pocketbook?

A foster mother can't cope

Like many shouldering the burden of South Africa AIDS orphans, foster mother Olga Thimbela tearfully wonders if her goodwill in adding six extended family members to three children of her own was a mistake.

South Africa AIDS orphans overwhelm social work services

Lora Doman has 450 cases to keep track of: A daunting challenge typical amng those in social work services providing care and protection of South Africa AIDS orphans.

Part 2
Celina and Pule Seloma Watch video: Gift gains a sister but loses a sister

Video: Gift gains a sister but loses a sister

AIDS orphan copes without his sister

Gift started kindergarten this year, but misses his sister who was taken away in a custody dispute.

Olga Thimbela, Pontsho Monamodi Watch video: Let's talk about sex

Video: Let's talk about sex

The challenge of raising teens in AIDS-ravaged South Africa

Thabang Thimbela's foster parents struggle to guide him and his foster sister Bulelwa through the temptations of adolescence.

Part 1
Celina and Pule Seloma Watch video: Gift and Mary get a new home

Video: Gift and Mary get a new home

Couple finds a new beginning in 'Gift'

Ever since their 21-year-old son was killed six years ago, Celina Seloma told her husband, Pule, that she wanted a child in their lives.

Olga Thimbela, Pontsho Monamodi Watch video: A young family suddenly grows

Video: A young family suddenly grows

In AIDS' wake, new family

Olga and Pontsho Monamodi added six children to their family after Olga's sister and aunt both died.

Social workers in short supply in South Africa

The caseload at Roodepoort Child Welfare Society has risen from between 60 and 80 a year to well over 1,000.