Understanding the experiences of caregivers of HIV infected children at a public hospital in Durban.
Globally HIV and AIDS are considered to be a major health and developmental challenge facing humanity. The HIV infection of children is not only an area of great concern for families but for the future of humankind. Caring and nurturing of children generally is considered as a challenging responsibility. Caregivers of HIV infected children are faced with the added responsibility of ensuring that these children have access to life saving health care at all times. Caregivers who are responsible for the health and well being of HIV infected children face constant challenges in their care giving role and this has implications for the quality of care of the child. The needs of HIV infected children are complex and vital to their basic needs is the administration of antiretroviral therapy (ART). This study aimed to explore, describe and interpret the experiences of caregivers, caring for HIV infected children and accessing services from a public hospital in Durban. Using the ecosystems theory, this qualitative study explored the experiences of thirty caregivers caring for HIV infected children. The data was collected using semi structured interviews with the caregivers. Four main themes emerged from the data analysis; namely: The caregivers’ intrapersonal experiences, their perspectives on HIV and ART, their access to health and social services and their coping strategies. This study concludes that caregivers of HIV infected children within the public hospital setting, experience numerous psycho-social and economic challenges on a daily basis. Subsequently, these challenges impacted on the quality of care to the HIV infected child. It was evident that respondents dealt with challenges differently, as the older respondents were more equipped emotionally and psychologically than the younger respondents. Generally, all respondents were negatively affected by poor psychological and socio-economic circumstances that prevented them from ensuring the wellbeing of the child. The challenges that they faced on the micro level (economic and psycho-social experiences), the mezzo (stigma, community and family support) and exo levels (health and welfare services) together with the macro level (DOH strategic plans and childcare legislations) determined how they provided for the care of the HIV infected child. Despite these challenges respondents’ resilience and commitment to providing for the health and wellbeing of the HIV infected child was consistent and remained a priority. Multi-level intervention programmes are required to help caregivers cope with their challenges. As such social work practitioners need to take cognizance of the psycho-social, emotional and material support required by caregivers of HIV infected children.
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