Experiences of social support among volunteer caregivers of people with AIDS living in the Kwangcolosi community, KwaZulu-Natal.
HIV/AIDS is a significant social problem impacting on families, communities, the public health sector and greater society. This qualitative study looked at the experiences of social support among volunteer caregivers of people living with AIDS and relationships of trust and solidarity between caregivers and members of the community. KwaZulu-Natal has the highest HIV infection rate in South Africa. This further compounds the burden of care and stigma surrounding caring for people living with HIV/AIDS .This study draws on aspects of social support theory, social capital framework and the theoretical resources of socio-ecological theory more broadly. Methodologically, in-depth interviews were conducted with 10 female volunteer caregivers with a minimum of three months care work experience and Ulin’s thematic analysis was utilized to highlight the salient themes around their experiences of social support. The findings of this study revealed that the burden of care, stigma experienced by the volunteer caregivers and the relationships between the volunteers and community members as well as social networks all played a significant role in the need for the provision of social support to the volunteers. Furthermore, the findings of the study highlighted the social consequences of care work and the need for support in this ambit. The study concluded that social support for the volunteers is severely lacking for the following reasons; there was a complete breakdown of social cohesion between the volunteers and their community; the relationships between the volunteer and surrounding social networks were under strain and as a result had a negative impact on the accessing of social support. Factors such as social trust, social bonding, social bridging and social linking were lacking between the volunteers and the community therefore accessing social support becomes problematic. Poverty is a factor that had a ripple effect on the volunteer and resulted in the urgent need for support in the form of tangible and emotional resources. Volunteerism is an undeniable necessity in the treatment or care of HIV/AIDS patients. The issues around social trust and social networks played a key role in the accessing of social support which ultimately impacted on the efficacy of care provided by the volunteer. The findings highlighted that there was a dire need to mobilize social capital within the KwaNgcolosi community in order to create relationships that would facilitate the social support needed by the volunteer.