STANFORD, Calif. The rise in AIDS death rates in sub-Saharan Africa has led to a burgeoning new category of neglected individuals nearly a million orphaned elderly, or older adults living alone without the benefit of any caregivers, Stanford University School of Medicine researchers have found.
The researchers used existing data to develop the first estimates on the number of elderly individuals left alone, without any adult support, as a result of the AIDS epidemic, said Grant Miller, PhD, MPP, assistant professor of medicine, who is affiliated with the Stanford Center for Health Policy.
"We find that AIDS has produced close to a million elderly people in sub-Saharan Africa who are living without the support of their sons, daughters or other younger adults. Many of them also live with young children under 10 years of age, creating households with a missing generation of adults," said Miller, senior author of the study. "I think this probably understates the magnitude of the problem. We were unable to closely examine material living conditions or elderly health."
The study appears in the June 16 online issue of the British Medical Journal. Miller's co-authors at the Stanford Center for Health Policy are Jay Bhattacharya, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine, and Eran Bendavid, MD, instructor of medicine.
Miller said he and his colleagues were stunned to learn that no one had taken a systematic look at this potentially large group of needy individuals.
"It just blew me away," he said. "We all know we have this problem with orphaned children. I wondered, do we have a similar problem with orphaned elderly? I searched a variety of publications and didn't find a clear answer."
Tim Kautz, the lead author of the study, said the idea for the project struck a chord with him, as he had spent a summer doing AIDS education in rural Tanzania. He lived there with a family that had taken in an unrelated, elderl
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Stanford University Medical Center