HIV/AIDS and older adults in Cameroon: Emerging issues and implications for caregiving and policy-making
The burden of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) on the elderly population in three divisions within the Northwest Region of Cameroon was examined. Data for this paper were extracted from a larger study which had been conducted concerning the burden of HIV infection and AIDS on the older adults in the Northwest Region of Cameroon. Using in-depth interviews (IDIs) and focus group discussions (FGDs), data were collected from 36 participants who were purposively selected from the three divisions which had been chosen randomly. 6 FGD sessions were held with 30 women aged 60 years and above and who were affected by HIV infection and AIDS, while IDIs sessions were held with 6 male community leaders. The results revealed that HIV infection and AIDS has added another dimension to the role of older persons. HIV infection and AIDS affects older people in diverse ways, as they have to look after themselves, their sick children and are often also left to look after their grandchildren orphaned by HIV infection and AIDS. These emerging issues in their lives make them vulnerable to health, social, economic and psychological challenges, and place a burden on them as caregivers instead of being cared for in their old age. Apart from increased direct expenditures, taking care of victims of HIV infection and AIDS requires older people to stay away from social, religious and community activities. The results showed that the loss of a child to HIV infection and AIDS affects the economic/financial well-being, participation in social/religious interactions as well as the community activities of older people participants. The implications of these findings for caregiving and social policy are discussed.
Keywords: HIV/AIDS, older adults, African family, caregiving, Cameroon