The literature pertaining to the elderly shows that HIV infection among this population is on the increase, suggesting that the elderly population engages in activities risky for HIV infection. Reports on such behaviour include frequent sexual relations with much younger people and having multiple partners. A study was carried out in Ga-Rankuwa, a black township in Gauteng Province, South Africa to explore and describe the understanding of these elderly people regarding their risks of HIV infection and AIDS. Using a qualitative, exploratory design, three focus-group interviews were conducted with 32 women aged over 50 years. Findings revealed that older persons have knowledge about transmission of HIV infection and AIDS. However, a few had misconceptions as to how HIV infection is transmitted, as they believed that poor nutrition and sharing facilities play a role. Knowledge of mechanisms of protecting themselves against infection, such as use of a condom during coitus and wearing gloves when caring for infected family members, was also evident. The elderly indicated that they would prefer an older person, who they could identify with, to educate them more about HIV infection and AIDS. Although majority of participants had knowledge of how HIV is transmitted, and issues that put them at risk of transmission, a few the older persons had misconceptions about how HIV is transmitted due to lack of knowledge, as they believed that poor nutrition and sharing facilities can transmit infection. The lack of knowledge underscores the importance of addressing sexual risk with older people. It was very clear that more needs to be done in terms of education campaigns to dispel the myths of HIV infection and to empower the elderly.
- HIV infection
- HIV testing