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Orphaned elderly serious casualty of African AIDS epidemic, Stanford study finds
Date:6/17/2010

y villager who had no one else to look after him.

"I saw both the devastation caused by AIDS and the importance of the family in caring for the elderly. This project was a way to combine the two observations," said Kautz, a former Stanford undergraduate now pursuing a PhD in economics at the University of Chicago.

The researchers used data from the Demographic and Health Survey, a USAID-funded database that provides standardized information on maternal/child health, HIV and other health indicators in low- and middle-income countries. The survey covered 123,000 individuals over age 60 living in 22 African countries between 1991 and 2006.

The scientists found a very strong correlation between the rise in AIDS death rates in these countries and an increase in elderly individuals living alone. For every one-point increase in AIDS mortality rates, they found a 1.5 percent increase in elderly people left to manage on their own.

In the 22 countries, the estimates translated into 582,200 to 917,000 elderly people left unattended, the researchers found. About a third of them or as many as 323,000 were also caring for young children. These individuals were more likely to be women, uneducated, living in rural areas and poorer than their attended counterparts. The results suggest HIV/AIDS has had a disproportionate impact on elderly people of lower socioeconomic status, the researchers reported.

Kautz said he was surprised the figures weren't even higher. He said he believes there are many more older individuals who have been left alone as their children die of AIDS, but that these elders have moved in with relatives or neighbors. These individuals would not be accounted for in the study, he said.

Although HIV has generally reduced life expectancies in Africa, those who escape the epidemic are living much longer as a result of greater access to health technologies, the researchers said. So there is an increased need for el
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Contact: Ruthann Richter
richter1@stanford.edu
650-725-8047
Stanford University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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