Community Reaction to Older Age Parental AIDS Caregivers and Their Families

Evidence From Cambodia

Article appearing in Research on Aging, Volume 32, Issue 1

  • Co-Author:
  • Nathalie Williams with John Knodel, Sovan Kiry Kim, Sina Puch, Chanpen Saengtienchai
  • Date: 2009

Accounts of community reactions to persons with HIV/AIDS and their families typically focus only on negative reactions stemming from stigmatization, with little acknowledgement of variation over time and across settings. To usefully guide local interventions, a broader view is needed that also encompasses attitudes and actions stemming from sympathy and friendship. The authors examined community reactions in Cambodia to families from the perspectives of parents of adults who died of AIDS or currently receive antiretroviral therapy. Survey evidence and open-ended interviews revealed a mixture of reactions with respect to social relations, interactions with local officials, gossip, business patronage, funeral participation, and orphaned grandchildren. Positive support was often dominant, and reactions typically improved substantially over time. Misplaced fears of contagion through casual contact underlay most negative reactions. Moral condemnation or blame was not evident as a source of negative reactions. Overall, a sufficiently supportive atmosphere likely exists in many localities to facilitate community-based efforts to mitigate the epidemic’s impact on affected families.