Original Articles

Community-based care of children with HIV in Potchefstroom, South Africa


Children contract HIV infection largely through vertical transmission and are vulnerable to AIDS illness due to an immature immune system. In South Africa, hospitals are often overburdened and thus children with HIV may be directed to the community for care. As a result, non-professional caregivers are a predominant source of care for children living with HIV. Various authors, including the Department of Health, have stipulated the importance of establishing the knowledge and needs of non-professional caregivers of children with HIV. Our research has investigated the extent of non-professional caregivers' knowledge and needs, specifically those within the Potchefstroom district of the North-West Province. The objectives included formulating guidelines for a training programme that can enhance relevant knowledge and skills among these caregivers. Quantitative data were gathered using a questionnaire, which was developed following a literature study. The 109 non-professional caregivers who responded to the questionnaire displayed some knowledge and skills concerning specifically the care of children with HIV or AIDS, although gaps existed concerning their knowledge of community-based referral, caring needs specific to children, and precautionary measures to prevent HIV transmission. Recommendations are made with specific reference to a training programme. We surmise that non-professional caregivers play a pivotal role in the care of children with HIV in the Potchefstroom district — a service that is sometimes rendered in perilous conditions. This study improves our understanding of the support and training needed for non-professional caregivers in their pursuit to care for children with HIV in resource-limited communities, and thus it contributes to the field of nursing science. The findings may generate ideas for future research on this important topic.

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