Home Institution

Carleton College

Publication Date

Fall 2011

Program Name

South Africa: Community Health and Social Policy


The dual epidemics of HIV/AIDS and non-communicable diseases in South Africa are the principal drivers of the worsening orphan epidemic in South Africa. As orphanhood is often far from a singular event but rather one preceded by months or even years of the parent or guardian’s declining health, many children will become the primary caregivers for a sick or dying adult. This study explores the lives of the young carers, specifically, the social support available for these children and how the support available for children caring for AIDS-sick caregivers may differ from that available for children caring for an adult critically ill from other causes. The study is based on a sample of four young carers located during four weeks of participant observation with the Holy Cross AIDS Hospice located in Emoyeni, South Africa. During this time, the researcher observed and conducted interviews with home-based care workers, young carers and members of the community working with these children. A similarly minimal level of social support was found in Emoyeni and the surrounding communities for both children caring for AIDS-sick caregivers and those caring for other-sick caregivers. However, AIDS-related stigma did have a negative effect on the level of community support provided, suggesting that there is a greater need for interventional support for children caring for AIDS-unwell caregivers than for those caring for other-unwell caregivers.


Family, Life Course, and Society | Health Services Research | Inequality and Stratification


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