Family dynamics in home-based care settings of Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands in Mutasa North rural district
Ever since United Nations’ declaration of 1994 as the Year of the Family, the study and understanding of families has taken center stage, albeit with constant references to ‘normal’ versus ‘deviant’ families based on structural functionalism theory’s rigid definitions of what a ‘normal’ family should be. On the other hand HIV/AIDS has attracted much attention too because of its life threatening traits, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where Zimbabwe lies. Efforts to fight the epidemic have seen the mushrooming of innovative programs, which include home–based care (HBC) services for those infected with HIV. However, although HIV and AIDS has clearly had adverse impacts on families, it is rarely discussed within perspectives that integrate family dynamics. To fill this gap this study has explored how HBC, as a response to HIV and AIDS, may change our understanding of families. Research data was gathered within the participatory action research design through methods such as focus group discussions by 35 HBC volunteers and patients, interviews of 26 of these, review of relevant family policies and other interactive participatory exercises by which research participants expressed their opinions through drawings. The evaluation showed that households were not always synonymous with families, although a thin line divided the two. Further, survival considerations are the leading priority why people find themselves in families within HBC settings. However, survival options available to women are exploitative and this has kept those in HBC settings reeling under the burden of demanding but unrewarded care work and domestic household jobs. The study teaches that families cannot be understood in aggregated terms and that individuals dictate what families become, not the other way round. The research essentially recommends policy revisions to reflect unique realities found in HBC settings, and among female HBC volunteers. This should be coupled with awareness campaigns in communities and further research on families.