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International News

Tanzania Elderly Increasingly at HIV Risk -- Report

December 8, 2004

Many of the 2 million Tanzanians above age 60 are increasingly at risk for HIV due to illiteracy, cultural practices, poverty and a lack of prevention knowledge, a recent report by HelpAge International found. "The risk is increased by customs such as polygamy and wife inheritance, as well as by their role as caregivers to people living with AIDS," the report said.

Elderly women spend 88 percent of their time looking after sick adult children or orphans, leaving many to resort to giving sexual favors in exchange for basic needs such as food or water, the report said. "Some elderly women go to the sea shore to buy fish directly from the fisherman, on the days when they have no money, they have to offer sex to the fisherman in order to get fish to feed the grandchildren," the report quoted an older woman as saying.

Most of Tanzania's elderly live in rural areas and get by on the help of their adult children. But with 2 million out of the country's 35 million population infected with HIV, some elderly are now caring for those who typically would have been expected to take care of them in their old age. "No matter what, patients will always go back to parents to receive solace and love in their final moments," said Abdul Jetha, country director of HelpAge.

As a result, said Jetha, "Older people are increasingly having to look after their children instead of the other way around, and when these die, they have to take care of the orphans." About 1 million AIDS orphans live in Tanzania, 64 percent of whom live with relatives over age 55, the study found.

Back to other news for December 8, 2004

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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.
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