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Experiences of HIV infection in old age in rural Malawi

Freeman, Emily (2012) Experiences of HIV infection in old age in rural Malawi. In: Africa Ageing Beyond Madrid +10, 1st Africa Region Conference of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 2012-10-17 - 2012-10-18.

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Background. Adults aged over 49 with HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa are a growing population that is under-researched. Objectives. To understand older people’s experiences of HIV infection in rural southern Malawi. The paper argues that improved understanding requires reflection on the meanings of sexuality in the social, cultural and conceptual context of people’s lives, as well as on experiences and understandings of ‘being old’ more broadly. Methods. Data were collected from men (n=20) and women (n=23) aged between 50 and around 90 using repeat, dependent in-depth interviews (n=136) within a constructivist grounded theory framework. A third (n=15) of these respondents were infected with HIV. These data were supplemented by focus groups with older people with HIV (n=2), key informant interviews with leaders of organisations concerned with ageing in Malawi (n=19), observations made during 11 months of fieldwork, and the descriptive analysis of interview data collected during a three-month multi-site pilot study (n=42). Outcomes and conclusion. Older peoples’ experiences of HIV infection reflect understandings of ageing and sexuality, as well as global and local messages about HIV. HIV was understood to alter the body in ways similar to very old age, diminishing physical strength and limiting an individual’s productive capacity. HIV was subsequently understood to ‘spoil’ an individual’s identity as an ‘adult’. Older people with HIV responded to this threat by presenting themselves as still-productive adults, and as appropriately-behaved and morally ‘cleansed’ elders. Both positions were possible due to recent availability of ART in the field site.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2012 The Author
Divisions: LSE
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Sets: Research centres and groups > LSE Health and Social Care
Date Deposited: 23 Jan 2017 10:17
Last Modified: 28 May 2020 23:20

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