Older people and HIV and AIDS in Africa

Series title: 

Older people and HIV and AIDS in Africa. Issue 04


Older people and HIV and AIDS in Africa

HIV and AIDS impacts on older people in two basic ways: as affected, namely from the perspective of the responsibility of caring for children orphaned by AIDS and for people living with HIV and AIDS and, secondly, as infected and living with HIV and AIDS. Both ways are highly significant.  The care giving role is an issue of scale with 40 - 50 per cent of the estimated 12 million children orphaned by AIDS in eastern and southern Africa being cared for by an older person, namely a grandmother. For the second type of impact, we are finally getting national data on HIV prevalence for the 50 and above age group and a disturbing picture is emerging that the prevalence rate is just below the national average, e.g., in Kenya 5 per cent HIV prevalence for the 50 - 64 age group compared to the national rate of 7.1 per cent (KAIS 2007) and in South Africa 6.7 per cent for the 50 - 60+ age group compared to 10.9 per cent for 2+ years (SA National HIV Prevalence IBC Survey 2008). For Kenya, this means that approximately 10 per cent of the 1.7 million people living with HIV and AIDS are older people.

The data has an impact and it calls for priority action at regional and national level for policy development and programming.  The focus of the 4th issue of the Older People & HIV and AIDS in Africa Bulletin attempts to do just that. The case studies in this issue reflect the challenges and personal endeavours by older people to cope with the consequences of HIV and AIDS. The situations are quite varied including being HIV positive and dealing with family relationships, promoting HIV prevention and knowing one’s status by traditional health practitioners and peer educators and the leadership of a young health professional in a rural area in Ethiopia to organize community-based health services for older people. The crucial care giving role of older people is well described in South Africa with older carers becoming activists to address food and nutrition needs, in Ethiopia the dynamics of intergenerational relationships between older carers and children and empowering older people through home-based care training in Tanzania. The impact of climate change and the need to hear the voices of older people is being addressed by HelpAge. The results of a regional scoping study in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe are highlighted in this issue.

Our lead article is about the success being achieved through advocacy in Durban, South Africa by the HelpAge partner Muthande Society for the Aged (MUSA). In 2008, HelpAge conducted training in developing HIV and AIDS advocacy strategies to MUSA and 20 other civil society organizations. Working groups were established for the themes of HIV prevention; care, support and treatment; rights and entitlements; and poverty alleviation and social protection. We are very grateful to colleagues who contributed to this edition of Older People & HIV and AIDS in Africa Bulletin and encourage you to also contribute to future editions of the Bulletin. The publication of the Bulletin would not be possible without the generous financial support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

Best wishes,

Douglas Lackey, PhD

Regional Advocacy and Communications Manager,

HelpAge International

Africa Regional Development Centre,

Nairobi, Kenya