Older Persons Face Challenges, Stigma in Caring for AIDS Orphans, HIV-Positive Relatives, WHO Study Says
Although older people in Africa are the primary caregivers for their HIV-positive adult children and orphaned grandchildren and their contribution is "critical" to improving access to HIV/AIDS care and support, their contribution is generally "ignored" by society, according to a study released yesterday by the World Health Organization. The study, titled the "Impact of AIDS on Older People in Africa," is based on a case study conducted last year in six of the 10 provinces of Zimbabwe. The study included interviews with 685 older people from both urban and rural households, all of whom provide HIV/AIDS-related care. According to the report, the older persons provide care in poverty, without recognition, often in poor health and with the stigma associated with those who provide care to HIV-positive people. In addition, the study found that older caregivers lose economic support when family members die or became ill; lack access to basic needs such as food, clothing, and medical care; have limited access to care services because of lack of transportation and high cost of services; do not have the financial means to pay for medical or school costs; face the stigma and negative attitudes of health workers toward the elderly and those with HIV/AIDS; and experience emotional and physical stress from increased levels of abuse and violence, often from "accusations of witchcraft." The study also found that older persons in Zimbabwe are already a "vulnerable group" because of a "lifetime of hardship," malnutrition, poverty, advanced age and chronic diseases and that the AIDS pandemic poses an "additional burden." The report recommends that the caretaker role of older persons be "recognized and supported" and calls for a change in attitude from health care workers and a change in health policies to ensure that older caretakers have access to adequate social, economic and emotional support (WHO release, 12/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.