The Gauteng city-region (GCR), South Africa’s economic hub and home to over 15 million people, is currently facing two epidemics. One is COVID-19, and the other is HIV/AIDS. With just under 2 million people living with HIV/ AIDS in the GCR (Simbayi et al, 2019) and the largest HIV-positive population of any city in the world (Stuart et al, 2018), HIV/AIDS has substantially impacted the demographics of the GCR, and the structure of families and households. Through these shifts, HIV/AIDS has placed a disproportionate burden of caregiving and financial support on the elderly. Our analysis explores the ways in which the arrival of COVID-19 interacts with Gauteng’s demographic and social fabric to further deepen the burdens of care and support experienced by the province’s elderly (see also Lemanski and De Groot, Volume 1).
Overall, 9.1 percent of South Africa’s population is over 60 years of age, which is higher than most other African countries (Ausubel, 2020). The GCR has a slightly lower proportion of those over 60, at 8.46 percent (StatsSA, 2020). One of the main reasons for this is the legacy of South Africa’s history of apartheid-driven labor migration (Moore and Seekings, 2018). Apartheid legislation restricted Black African residence in urban areas largely to those of working age, resulting in profound divisions of families across rural and urban areas. Although the legislation was repealed in the late 1980s, many older people continue to leave the GCR on retirement. South Africa’s higher proportion of elderly relates to the relative affluence of the country in the African context, but also to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which, particularly prior to the introduction of treatment in 2004, resulted in the premature death of many younger people (Udjo, 2006).
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