The purpose of this research was to investigate the plight of AIDS orphans and vulnerable children in Botswana. The results reflect the poor socioeconomic situation of orphans in the country. Their number, especially in rural areas, is very high (i.e. 15% of all the children in rural areas). On average, 4.2% of the orphaned children of Botswana are household heads. The percentage of child heads of household (including non-orphaned) is greatest in the Central district (37.5%). Most of the orphans are raised by their relatives; for example, by grandparents (33.7%) and uncles (30%), the African tradition of the extended family which should be encouraged. Because orphaned children are, in most cases, not well educated and trained, they end up performing menial work or odd jobs, which are the lowest on the earnings ladder. The results also indicate that very few young people, especially those in the 10–14-year age group (less than 28%) know how HIV transmission can be prevented. There are some indications that young people are beginning to change their sexual behaviour; for example, a Central Statistical Office (CSO) (2005) report indicates that condom use among young people aged 15–24 increased from 81.5% to 87.1% between 2001 and 2004, while the number of people with more than one sex partner reduced from 10.6% to 5.5% for the same period. The provision of antiretroviral therapy to Botswana citizens and the different HIV/AIDS initiatives, programmes or partnerships now taking place in the country, such as the African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships (ACHAP), should be applauded. However, much more should be done in terms of AIDS awareness and helping orphans, both socially and economically. For example, the government could create incentives for relatives and neighbours to take responsibility for orphans. This could be done, for instance, in the form of a foster care grant for each child they take into their care. Intervention could be better targeted; for example, children in the 10–14-year age group and districts such as the Central district, Kweneng and the Southern district should be given the first priority, as they have many child-headed households. It is also recommended that AIDS policy should be gender-biased towards women, and HIV/AIDS initiatives and programmes should be integrated with poverty reduction strategies for sustainable development.