More Grandparents Than Ever Before Solely Caring for Grandchildren Orphaned by HIV/AIDS, Research Finds
The number of grandparents worldwide caring for grandchildren orphaned by AIDS has doubled during the past 10 years, with half of the globe's 15 million AIDS orphans being cared for by a grandparent, according to new research released on Sunday by the United Kingdom-based Help the Aged, the PA/Press and Journal reports. The figures also show that if this trend continues at a constant rate, the number of grandparents responsible for AIDS orphans will double again by 2015.
David Clarke, international manager for Help the Aged, said, "These findings highlight the silent explosion of the number of grandparents fighting to keep their grandchildren alive." Clarke added, "Unrecorded, unrecognized and unsupported, these older people, many in their 80s and 90s, will struggle on less than a dollar a day to feed newborns, nurse sick toddlers and put children through school. Throughout their tireless battle, many grandparents tell us their greatest fear is not knowing what will happen to their grandchildren once they have gone." According to Help the Aged, there also are "gaping holes" in the amount of international aid that older people receive, with the needs of older caregivers being underreported or overlooked.
The PA/Press and Journal reports that a UNAIDS report earlier this year found that the HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa has orphaned nearly 12 million children younger than age 18, suggesting that natural age distribution in many African countries had been "dramatically skewed" by the disease. Consequently, there are concerns that low-income grandparents lack enough food, sleep and medicine for themselves and have been forced to work in physically demanding jobs, carry out heavy domestic tasks and nurse sick grandchildren. Help the Aged said it plans to present a signed petition to the United Kingdom's International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander to call on the government to encourage the United Nations to work to ensure that older people are accounted for when HIV/AIDS progress worldwide is tracked.
According to the Department for International Development, Alexander at the United Nations Global Summit last week called for more action to eradicate poverty and fight HIV/AIDS. A DFID spokesperson said, "We recognize the crippling burden that HIV and AIDS create across all parts of society in developing countries, which is why DFID recently made a commitment to spend" six billion British pounds -- or about $11 billion -- "up to 2015 on developing better health services to tackle the disease. In addition to this, our social transfer scheme gives families struggling to care for AIDS victims and their relations -- which are often the older generation -- a regular form of income" (Silverman, PA/Press and Journal, 9/29).