In this paper, we examine a prominent interpretation of HIV risk in a rural South African setting experiencing a severe HIV epidemic well into older ages: the discourse of caregiving HIV transmission. By caregiving transmission, we refer to HIV infection resulting from caring for family members who are living with HIV and may be sick with AIDS-related illnesses. We draw on individual life history and community focus group interviews with men and women aged 40–80+, as well as interviews with health workers providing HIV counselling and testing services at local health facilities in their communities. We illustrate the social and strategic role caregiving HIV transmission discourses play in re-signifying HIV as a sexless infection for older women, thereby promoting HIV testing as well as blameless acceptance of an HIV diagnosis. We further highlight the role of rural health workers who serve as medical epistemic bricoleurs, vernacularising global HIV counselling and prevention messages by blending ideas of gender, generation, and local lived experiences and practices so that they resonate with community norms, values and understandings. Our study highlights the gendered and generational complexities and challenges experienced by rural South Africans aging in a community over-burdened by an HIV epidemic and AIDS-related mortality.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- HIV transmission
- older women
- rural South Africa