Document Type



Internal Medicine (East Africa)


Importance: In 2015, there were nearly 140 million orphaned children globally, particularly in low- and middle-income regions, and millions more for whom the street is central to their everyday lives. A total of 16.6 million children were orphaned because of deaths associated with HIV/AIDS, of whom 90% live in sub-Saharan Africa. Although most orphaned and separated children and adolescents in this region are cared for by extended family, the large number of children requiring care has produced a proliferation of institutional care. Few studies have investigated the association between care environment and physical health among orphaned and separated youths in sub-Saharan Africa.

Objective: To examine the association of care environment with incident HIV and death among orphaned and separated children and adolescents who were living in charitable children’s institutions, family-based settings, and street settings in western Kenya over almost 10 years.

Design, Setting, and Participants: The Orphaned and Separated Children’s Assessments Related to Their Health and Well-Being (OSCAR) project was an observational prospective cohort study conducted in Uasin Gishu County, Kenya. The cohort comprised 2551 orphaned, separated, and street-connected children from communities within 8 administrative locations, which included 300 randomly selected households (family-based settings) caring for children who were orphaned from all causes, 19 charitable children’s institutions (institutional settings), and a convenience sample of 100 children who were practicing self-care on the streets (street settings). Participants were enrolled from May 31, 2010, to April 24, 2013, and were followed up until November 30, 2019.

Exposures: Care environment (family-based, institutional, or street setting).

Main Outcomes and Measures: Survival regression models were used to investigate the association between care environment and incident HIV, death, and time to incident HIV or death.

Results: Among 2551 participants, 1230 youths were living in family-based settings, 1230 were living in institutional settings, and 91 were living in street settings. Overall, 1321 participants (51.8%) were male, with a mean (SD) age at baseline of 10.4 (4.8) years. Most participants who were living in institutional (1047 of 1230 youths [85.1%]) or street (71 of 91 youths [78.0%]) settings were double orphaned (ie, both parents had died). A total of 59 participants acquired HIV infection or died during the study period. After adjusting for sex, age, and baseline HIV status, living in a charitable children’s institution was not associated with death (adjusted hazard ratio [AHR], 0.26; 95% CI, 0.07-1.02) or incident HIV (AHR, 1.49; 95% CI, 0.46-4.83). Compared with living in a family-based setting, living in a street setting was associated with death (AHR, 5.46; 95% CI, 2.30-12.94), incident HIV (AHR, 17.31; 95% CI, 5.85-51.25), and time to incident HIV or death (AHR, 7.82; 95% CI, 3.48-17.55).

Conclusions and Relevance: In this study, after adjusting for potential confounders, no association was found between care environment and HIV incidence or death among youths living in institutional vs family-based settings. However, living in a street setting vs a family-based setting was associated with both HIV incidence and death. This study’s findings suggest that strengthening of child protection systems and greater investment in evidence-based family support systems that improve child and adolescent health and prevent youth migration to the street are needed for safe and beneficial deinstitutionalization to be implemented at scale.

Publication ( Name of Journal)

JAMA Network Open

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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