HIV/AIDS and elderly health : the experiences of caregivers living in HIV affected households.
More than three decades after the outbreak of the AIDS pandemic, sub-Saharan Africa is home to the largest epidemic in the world. Over 70% of infected people live in this region and are aged 15–49 years. Given that it is at this age that young adults are more likely to start families, their death as a result of AIDS gives rise to the crisis of AIDS-orphaned children. Several studies show that the number of AIDS orphans is on the rise and can reach up to 18 million throughout the continent. Generally, patients expect to be admitted in formal health care facilities for adequate treatment but the absence of cure and an increasing number of infected make it difficult for them to be treated as in-patients. In order to fill the gap, the elderly care for AIDS patients and take on the parenting role of AIDS orphans. However, there is not much information on the implications of caregiving on the well-being of the elderly. This dissertation aims at shedding light on this issue – using data from an informal settlement in the province of KwaZulu-Natal – in order to highlight the risks to the health of elderly caregivers. The elderly are the primary caregivers to thousands of AIDS patients and AIDS-orphaned children across sub-Saharan Africa. Their caregiving activities are strenuous and repetitive on a daily basis. Through qualitative data collected from 14 elderly caregivers, this project found that their well-being was compromised by several caregiving activities and the expectations placed upon them were unbearable. The vulnerability of caregivers was emphasized by the high number of dependents that resulted in lowered standard of living. There was also the risk of contracting HIV during caregiving since the elderly were not able to afford protective equipment.