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Hitting Home: How Households Cope with the Impact of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic « » The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Hitting Home: How Households Cope with the Impact of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic

A Survey of Households Affected by HIV/AIDS in South Africa

This October 2002 report, commissioned by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Trust for Health Systems Planning and Development, indicates the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on South African households. The report documents AIDS-affected households' access to public services and their satisfaction with the services received, as well as access to government financial support for their households. The report summarizes the results of a survey of more than 700 AIDS-affected households in different regions of South Africa.

Key findings include:

  • Two thirds of the households in the survey reported loss of income as a consequence of HIV/AIDS.
  • Almost half reported not having enough food and that their children were going hungry.
  • Almost a quarter of all children under age 15 in the sample had already lost at least one parent.
  • In 12% of the households, children were sent away to live elsewhere; in 8%, children under 18 were the primary caregivers; and in 25% of households, caregivers were over 60.
  • More than two thirds of the AIDS-sick individuals in the survey were women and girls, with an average age of 33.
  • Only about 50% of the respondents have acknowledged publicly that the sick person they were caring for had HIV/AIDS; one in 10 reported hostility and rejection.
  • Fewer than 16% of households in the survey were receiving government grants of any kind, even though all qualified for some form of assistance.
  • Some 55% of AIDS-affected households paid for a funeral in the last year and spent, on average, four times their total monthly income on the funeral.

Dr. Drew Altman, President and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said: This new survey of affected households in South Africa provides a stark picture of the experiences of family members who are caring for someone with HIV/AIDS. Everybody knows that AIDS is a terrible illness, but this study shows its broader human impact causing hunger and poverty in those families.

He added: Sadly, this impact may be even greater than this study shows, because the surveyed households at least had access to some level of outside assistance.

The survey was conducted by Abt Associates Inc. (South Africa), Social Surveys and the Memory Box Project of the University of Cape Town.


The study surveyed more than 700 households with at least one person already sick with AIDS in four South African provinces: Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal. All households consented to participate and confidentiality was maintained. The study examined a sample of households who were already in contact with non-governmental organizations, thus it provides a snapshot of HIV/AIDS-affected families but not a representative sample of all households affected in South Africa. Because it surveyed families already in contact with helping organizations it can be presumed to understate the impact of HIV/AIDS among all affected households in the country.