Mutual Isolation and the Fight for Care An Ethnography of South African Home-based Healthcare Contexts

Izak van ZYL


With the increasing pressure created by HIV/AIDS and chronic illness, home-based healthcare (HBHC) has become a vital counter-service in developing countries. Yet, initial observations in several HBHC setups in the Western Cape of South Africa have indicated that caregivers lacked proper support structures. This was either in the form of patient data administration, finances, emotional counseling, or informal educational opportunities. These challenges in turn may inspire a range of probable ‘solutions’, ICT and otherwise. These circumstances are the rationale, then, behind a full ethnographic undertaking. Indeed, an in-depth understanding of HBHC in its variety of contexts must precede any (abstract) solutions, be it in ICT, social development, or health provision. This paper sets out to elucidate some of the social and cultural factors that are pertinent in this environment, to explore the needs and desires of caregivers – particularly informational and educational – and to lay the early foundation for possible communication technology-based solutions (or counter-actions).

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