The impact of adult illness and death on households in rural South Africa

Victoria Hosegood, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Joanna Busza, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Sindile Moitse, UNDP

This study examines the responses of households and their members to multiple deaths of young adults using in-depth qualitative histories of families coping with adult and illness in a rural area of South Africa that is experiencing a rapid and severe HIV epidemic. Our primary data sources are participant observations over a two-year period of twenty households that experienced the illness and death of one or more adult members. We find that households affected by HIV/AIDS experience a significant reduction in their economic status and undergo substantial changes in their household structure. The longitudinal perspective highlights the changing responses with multiple experiences of adult death in the same household. We show that the consequences of adult deaths are felt by all household members, including those who are unrelated or distantly related to the deceased. But that the responses of both households and individuals are frequently shaped by historical social circumstances.

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Presented in Session 163: Poverty, households and demographic behaviour