Elderly Shoulder AIDS Care Burden in Africa: World Health Organization
January 3, 2003
The older men and women who provide much of the care and support for people with AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa are experiencing physical and psychological hardships, World Health Organization researchers said in a new report.Adapted from:
The report, "Impact of AIDS on Older People in Africa," was conducted by WHO's Geneva-based Aging and Life Course division. The research team, led by Robert deGraft Agyarko, chose Zimbabwe as a case study to investigate the role of older community members in caring for adults and children with HIV/AIDS.
The researchers interviewed 685 men and women age 50 and older living in six rural and urban provinces in Zimbabwe. Women accounted for more than 70 percent of the sample. Most study participants were either current or former main caregivers for a family member who was terminally ill with AIDS, or for one or more children orphaned by AIDS -- defined as a child who had lost at least one parent.
The researchers found that most of the terminally ill patients were the caregivers' sons or daughters -- nearly three-quarters of whom were ages 15-49 -- and most of the elderly cared for at least one orphan.
Most older caregivers lived in poverty. Almost nine out of ten caregivers earned no regular monthly or yearly income, and nearly two-thirds said they suffered from a range of community abuses -- such as AIDS-related stigma or verbal and physical violence. Furthermore, nearly 60 percent who said they were in "poor health" attributed this problem to the fatigue, stress and burnout that accompanied their role as primary caregiver.
The researchers concluded that older caregivers urgently need more support. They suggest the government provide older caregivers with better access to health care via improved transportation and subsidized medicines. Governments should help older caregivers find ways to earn income and offer them psychological counseling and material supplies -- while promoting AIDS awareness throughout the population, the researchers said.
01.01.03; Alan Mozes
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.