Unlike other diseases in Africa (malaria, tuberculosis, intestinal worms, etc.), which mainly affect the young and the old, HIV/AIDS takes its toll on prime-age adults during the most productive years of their lives. The death of an adult family member can have large consequences for the surviving family. Given prevailing social norms in many African societies, the burden may likely be heaviest for women.
Most studies focus on the consequences for orphaned children – their schooling and health. We know less about how older adults are impacted. In our study, we track individuals and their households in northwest Tanzania, an area of high HIV prevalence in the 1990s, over a 13-year period.
We find that, when a family member dies, women (even old women) end up working more on the farm; men do too, but not as much. Having an asset such as goats enables them to work less.