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International News

Millions of Grandparents in Developing World Caring for Grandchildren Orphaned by AIDS

April 8, 2002

The issue of grandparents caring for grandchildren orphaned by HIV/AIDS is likely to be prominent at the UN conference on aging being opened today by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Aid organizations say the burden is becoming too much to bear for the elderly in poor societies. "Older people have looked after grandchildren as long as the world's existed," said Fiona Clark of HelpAge International, a global non-profit organization. "Now the kind of support they were getting from the middle generation is disappearing because the middle generation is dying." The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies estimates that at least 5 million seniors in Africa alone have taken on the role of parents because of AIDS.

The UN has predicted that by mid-century, one-fifth of the world population will be over age 60. With little or no pensions, grandparents are already providing shelter, food, clothing, health care, school fees -- and funerals -- for their grandchildren, many of whom are HIV-infected. "You end up with a cycle of chronic poverty," said Clark. "It's a vicious circle. You don't know how to get out of it," Clark said.

At the five-day UN meeting, nations will be asked to ratify a proposal that calls for more research into "the impact of HIV/AIDS on the health of older persons, both for those who are infected and older persons who are caregivers for infected or surviving family members." They will also discuss better training and support for older caregivers and treatment for those infected. Until now, AIDS research has focused on children "because their whole life is ahead of them," said Clark. "But it's shortsighted because unless you support the older people who are caring for those children, the children will end up on their own."

Back to other CDC news for April 8, 2002

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Adapted from:
Associated Press
04.07.02; Jerome Socolovsky

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More on HIV Treatment in the Developing World
More News on Global HIV/AIDS