Elderly Becoming Heads of Households, Primary Caretakers In Africa As AIDS Kills Young Adult Population
The elderly in South Africa are increasingly becoming the primary care givers "of large, often traumatized, households of young AIDS orphans," the Boston Globe reports. The elderly, the "pillars in African societies," are being forced to care for their grandchildren as the AIDS epidemic "decimates" the young adult population. About five million South Africans are HIV-positive, and in urban areas, approximately 25% of all adults under age 50 carry the disease, turning the African age demographic into "an hourglass." Physicians estimate that by 2005 there will be one million HIV-positive young children in South Africa, and in some cases elderly care givers contract the virus from the children for whom they care. Further, men in South Africa "apparently have given up all pretense of being heads of households," leaving the elderly as "more or less the only glue left holding together fractured households and communities," the Globe reports. According to the Globe, the pensions that elderly South Africans receive -- unlike the aging population of any other country in Africa -- "only increases the pressure on them -- as the only people in many large, fractured families with any kind of regular income -- to become the head of the household and primary care giver" (Pearce, Boston Globe, 1/7).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.