Impact of HIV/AIDS on older people in Africa
HIV/AIDS affects older people in two ways:
1. Risk of contracting HIV
Older people are increasingly being infected by HIV, however available data does not often include how the pandemic is affecting this population group. As a consequence, older people continue to be excluded from HIV prevention and treatment programmes. UNAIDS estimates that 2.8 million people aged 50 and over 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.
HIV/AIDS alters family structures: when their adult children die older persons once again become the head of the household, providing care for orphaned children. The number of grandparents caring for AIDS orphans in developing countries has doubled over the last ten years and up to half of the world’s 15 million AIDS orphans are being cared by a grandparent. The majority of older caregivers are women who face serious financial, physical and emotional stress due to their belated caregiving responsibilities.
WHO recommendations for mitigating the impact of HIV/AIDS on older people are:
- providing concrete support to older people (for example social pensions);
- training HIV/AIDS service and health providers on gerontological issues;
- providing psychological and medical support for older people living with ill family members;
- including older people in HIV/AIDS education/training programmes.