Thursday, February 28, 2013

Older Persons Fighting HIV/AIDS in South Africa

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently analyzed HIV/AIDS issues among older people in  South Africa. What did the researchers find?

Increasingly older people are contracting HIV/AIDS. However, existing data does not specify how many have been infected. Also, WHO says that  older people continue to be excluded from HIV prevention and treatment programmes.  UNAIDS estimates that 2.8 million people 50 years and older were living with HIV in 2006 and the prevalence of HIV in South Africa among people age 50-54 was 10.8%, 4.5% among those aged 55-59, and 3.9% among those aged 60 and over.  But we don't have current data.

Older people in nearly every culture depend on family support.  Usually younger persons care for the most old or infirm.  However, HIV/AIDS changes such family relationships.  When adult children die, older persons once again step in to head the household and care for orphaned children. The number of grandparents caring for AIDS orphans in developing countries has doubled over the last ten years.  At least half of the world’s 15 million AIDS orphans are being cared by a grandparent. As GAA has pointed out many times, older caregivers are often women who face serious financial, physical and emotional stress due to their caregiving responsibilities in their later years.

Here are some WHO recommendations to citizens and governments to reduce the heavy impact of HIV/AIDS on older people:
  • provide concrete support to older people, such as social pensions;
  • train HIV/AIDS service and health providers on gerontological issues;
  • insure psychological and medical support for older people living with ill family members;
  • include older people in HIV/AIDS education/training programmes
Susanne Paul
Global Action on Aging

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