AIDS not the downfall of African families

Aug 20, 2007

The media’s message is clear: the AIDS epidemic will be the downfall of families in Africa. A new study by a University of Missouri-Columbia researcher calls that an overstatement. Her study shows that AIDS compounds the issue of poverty in households where poverty is already a prevailing issue, especially when a household loses its primary income earner to AIDS.

“We saw some households that had experienced an AIDS death functioning better than some households that had not experienced an AIDS death,” said Enid Schatz, assistant professor of occupational therapy and director of social science research in the MU School of Health Professions. “We were surprised to see that all the alarmist predictions in the popular media that AIDS will bring an imminent downfall to the African society just did not seem to be true. In fact, because of all the poverty issues, AIDS just seems to be viewed as ‘just another crisis’ to the families in South Africa.”

Schatz spent time with older women in multi-generational households in a rural part of northeast South Africa. The older generation’s government pensions (one of few developing countries to offer this type of assistance) play a crucial role in day-to-day survival in this area where AIDS morbidity and mortality have profound effects on household resources. The study says the elderly are much more likely to be affected, rather than infected, with HIV/AIDS.

“Some of the older women did express that their situations seemed difficult and they expected to be spending these years of their lives resting. However, most often we heard that they feel it is their obligation and responsibility to carry the household financially with their pensions and despite the hardships, most are able to cope,” Schatz said.

Often, the offspring of the elderly in families either die of AIDS or have to migrate to find work because of the high unemployment rate in the rural areas. The households are then left to cope with the loss of income and support previously provided by those who become sick or die of AIDS. If parents migrate to find work, grandmothers must use their pensions, intended to sustain one elderly individual, to maintain an entire household and often even donate to other households. One elderly woman in the study and her husband support 12 people, including seven grandchildren, four of whom are AIDS orphans.

“In the Western perspective we often see households as being unconnected and that is not the case in South Africa,” Schatz said. “We saw families who were very resilient and really taking care of each other. In some cases, grandmothers were caring for their own grandchildren as well as orphans and caring for those sick and dying of AIDS.”

Source: University of Missouri-Columbia

Explore further: Cell-associated HIV mucosal transmission: The neglected pathway

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

TV sound system for the hard of hearing

Nov 13, 2014

Families often watch TV together, but what happens when one member has hearing difficulties? Usually the result is a compromise on listening volume that doesn't really satisfy anyone.

Research that holds water

Oct 21, 2014

Water is a vulnerable resource coming under increasing pressure in many parts of the world. The Research Council of Norway is providing funding to a number of research projects seeking to solve challenges related to the supply ...

Poverty rate drops for the first time since 2006

Sep 16, 2014

The poverty rate in the United States has dropped for the first time since 2006, bringing a bit of encouraging news about the nation's economy as President Barack Obama and Congress gear up for the November elections.

Recommended for you

Cambodia orders probe into mass HIV infection

Dec 18, 2014

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday ordered a probe into an apparent mass HIV infection believed to have been spread by contaminated needles, as the number of suspected cases passed 100.

A fresh setback for efforts to cure HIV infection

Dec 17, 2014

Researchers are reporting another disappointment for efforts to cure infection with the AIDS virus. Six patients given blood-cell transplants similar to one that cured a man known as "the Berlin patient" have ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.