An analysis of intergenerational issues between older caregivers and children in the context of AIDS: A review of the challenges, obligations and the way forward

An analysis of intergenerational issues between older caregivers and children in the context of AIDS


In a region where an estimated 40 to 60 per cent of orphaned children are cared for by grandparents, the well-being of children affected by AIDS in southern and eastern Africa is inextricably bound to that of older carers. Despite this, there is a noticeable lack of adequate legislation, policies and programming to protect and address the needs of older carers and the
children for whom they care.

Sub-Saharan Africa has been severely affected by the AIDS epidemic. UNAIDS and WHO (2009) report that in 2008 sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 67% of HIV infections worldwide, 68% of new infections among adults, and 91% of new HIV infections among children. The disease has seen high mortality rates amongst adults aged 15 – 49; this in turn has had a huge impact on the lives of the parents of the middle generation as well as those of their children. The impact is felt in the disruption that has come about in the traditional relationships of care and support.

Whereas in Africa the middle generation has traditionally provided material and psychosocial, emotional and other forms of support to both their children and their ageing parents, this middle generation is being cut away, leaving vacuum in care and support. 'At a time in their lives when many older people might expect to be supported and cared for by their children, a growing number are instead caring for younger adults living with HIV, and for the orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) they leave behind’ (Samuels and Wells 2009). Between 40 and 60% of orphaned children in sub-Saharan Africa are cared for by their grandmothers (UNICEF 2007). Grandparents are emerging as the 'new' parents at a time when they themselves need care and support in old age. 

These households, the older caregivers and the children for whom they care, are confronted by a host of challenges – challenges that represent a secondary crisis for families affected by HIV and AIDS