Indexed on: 06 Jul '14Published on: 06 Jul '14Published in: Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology
Personal social networks and their association with the health of older people have been explored, but there are few studies that examined the relationship between the general health of older people living with HIV/AIDS (OPLWHA) and their personal social networks. This exploratory study investigates the characteristics of personal networks among OPLWHA and the relationship between the self-rated health and personal social networks of OPLWHA in Lomé, Togo. Forty-nine OPLWHA were interviewed via an egocentric survey. We examined the composition and size of the networks of OPLWHA. Also, the correlation between networks and self-reported health was examined. Findings show that the OPLWHA had personal social networks that included three types of people: immediate kin, extended kin, and non-kin. Additionally, these networks varied by size. While the mean number of people in the smaller network (people from whom the OPLWHA can borrow an important sum of money) was less than one person (0.55), the mean number of people in the larger network was three (people with whom the OPLWHA enjoy socializing). Furthermore, only the network of people with whom OPLWHA enjoy socializing had a significant positive correlation on the self-rated health of OPLWHA. Consistent with prior research, we found that the mere existence of a network does not imply that the network has a positive correlation with the subject or that the network provides the social support needed to positively influence health. A study of the correlation between social network characteristics and health in the population of older people with HIV/AIDS is important as the number of OPLWHA continues to grow.