Supporting people with AIDS and their carers in rural South Africa: Possibilities and challenges

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Under-served rural areas—home to over half of people in sub-Saharan Africa—bear a heavy HIV/AIDS burden. We present a case study of the existence and quality of support networks available to people with AIDS and their carers in a South African rural area. Drawing on 45 interviews and 13 focus groups, we identify key local HIV/AIDS-relevant actors and agencies in civil society, the public and the private sectors. The most effective support comes from families and neighbours, volunteer health workers and two lone missionaries. This support is undermined by counter-productive responses by faith-based organisations, traditional healers and local leaders, and by poor levels of support from public and private sector agencies. We discuss ways in which existing and latent networks might best be strengthened and supported.

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