Advocate Urges Tanzania To Provide More HIV/AIDS Support to Elderly People, Caregivers
Anna Mshigwa, CEO of the Tanga Elderly Women Resource Center, on Wednesday urged the Tanzanian government to provide more funding and support for HIV/AIDS services targeted at older people, particularly those who provide care to children orphaned by the disease, the Guardian/IPP Media reports. According to Mshigwa, elderly people in Tanzania do not receive sufficient recognition for the role they play as caregivers to children affected by HIV/AIDS. In addition, campaigns promoting awareness about the disease typically target young people, and reports on HIV in Tanzania often lack sufficient data on the impact of the disease among older populations, Mshigwa said.
According to Mshigwa, UNICEF estimates that grandparents -- grandmothers in particular -- care for about 40% of all orphans in Tanzania. She said that 60% of "orphaned children live in grandparent-headed households," adding that women particularly are likely to serve as caregivers. According to Mshigwa, many elderly people have low incomes and therefore encounter difficulty supporting their families and grandchildren. "Elderly caregivers have the right to receive support from the government for the vital service they offer to orphans whose parents have died of HIV/AIDS," she said. She added that caregivers often are "very challenged to maintain their health and that of those under their care," and therefore are "vulnerable" to HIV/AIDS themselves.
Although most HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention campaigns in the country target young people, elderly people still can be sexually active and spread the virus, Mshigwa said. According to Mshigwa, many older people have low literacy levels and therefore might encounter difficulty accessing written information about the disease. In addition, HIV risk and transmission among elderly people often go undetected or unreported, Mshigwa said. She noted that the UNGASS 2008 Country Progress Report did not discuss the impact of HIV/AIDS on elderly people or home-based care and support. Mshigwa added that her organization plans to advocate for elderly people affected by HIV/AIDS in Tanzania and organize a meeting to discuss the issue (Kigwangallah, Guardian/IPP Media, 1/8). Make Msuya -- a district health officer in Korogwe, Tanzania -- also recently called on elderly people to be tested for HIV/AIDS in order to help curb the spread of HIV in the country (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/7).
The UNGASS report is available online (.pdf).