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Using in-depth qualitative data to enhance our understanding of quantitative results regarding the impact of HIV and AIDS on households in rural Uganda


  • Seeley, Janet
  • Biraro, Samuel
  • Shafer, Leigh Anne
  • Nasirumbi, Pamela
  • Foster, Susan
  • Whitworth, Jimmy
  • Grosskurth, Heiner


Two significant challenges face researchers tracking HIV-related socio-economic and demographic change over time in large cohort studies. Firstly, data collected in cohort studies established to describe the dynamics of HIV infection may contain no systematic data on household consumption expenditures which is an established measure of current and long-run household welfare. The second challenge is the choice of the unit of analysis in order to recognise and record impact; this is because most cohorts use the household as that unit. This means that the influence of factors outside that unit cannot easily be tracked. In this paper we show how a detailed understanding of the impact of HIV and AIDS on wider families and social networks, obtained through in-depth longitudinal research with a small number of households, can shed light on the findings from quantitative analysis from a larger cohort in the same population in rural Uganda. The findings of large-scale survey data from more than 2000 households over a 12-year period showed a lack of a strong association between poverty, HIV status and/or death of the household head. In-depth ethnographic research with 26 households in 1991/2 and a restudy of the same households in 2006/7 provide insights into the reasons for this finding: the choice of socio-economic indicators and support from other family and community members play a part in affecting survey findings on the impact of HIV at household level. One other factor is important in explaining the findings. HIV-infected family members from outside the household may drain resources from the household, so looking at the impact of HIV and AIDS on people's wider families provides pointers to why those who have not had an AIDS-related death in their own household may have failed to prosper. Our qualitative findings show that AIDS may well throw households into disarray and poverty, but more often reduces development and hinders families from getting out of poverty. Used strategically, small longitudinal studies can provide important information with which to explain patterns observed in large-scale quantitative datasets.

Suggested Citation

  • Seeley, Janet & Biraro, Samuel & Shafer, Leigh Anne & Nasirumbi, Pamela & Foster, Susan & Whitworth, Jimmy & Grosskurth, Heiner, 2008. "Using in-depth qualitative data to enhance our understanding of quantitative results regarding the impact of HIV and AIDS on households in rural Uganda," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(9), pages 1434-1446, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:67:y:2008:i:9:p:1434-1446

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Danziger, Renee, 1994. "The social impact of HIV/AIDS in developing countries," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 39(7), pages 905-917, October.
    2. Yamano, Takashi & Jayne, T. S., 2004. "Measuring the Impacts of Working-Age Adult Mortality on Small-Scale Farm Households in Kenya," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 91-119, January.
    3. Hosegood, Victoria & Preston-Whyte, Eleanor & Busza, Joanna & Moitse, Sindile & Timaeus, Ian M., 2007. "Revealing the full extent of households' experiences of HIV and AIDS in rural South Africa," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(6), pages 1249-1259, September.
    4. Deon Filmer & Lant Pritchett, 2001. "Estimating Wealth Effects Without Expenditure Data—Or Tears: An Application To Educational Enrollments In States Of India," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 38(1), pages 115-132, February.
    5. Mather, David & Donovan, Cynthia & Jayne, Thomas S. & Weber, Michael T. & Chapoto, Antony & Mazhangara, Edward & Bailey, Linda & Yoo, Kyeongwon & Yamano, Takashi & Mghenyi, Elliot W., 2004. "A Cross-Country Analysis of Household Responses to Adult Mortality in Rural Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications For HIV/AIDS Mitigation And Rural Development Policies," Food Security International Development Working Papers 54571, Michigan State University, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cleary, Susan & Silal, Sheetal & Birch, Stephen & Carrara, Henri & Pillay-van Wyk, Victoria & Rehle, Thomas & Schneider, Helen, 2011. "Equity in the use of antiretroviral treatment in the public health care system in urban South Africa," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 99(3), pages 261-266, March.
    2. Rachel Goldberg & Susan Short, 2012. "“The Luggage that isn’t Theirs is Too Heavy…”: Understandings of Orphan Disadvantage in Lesotho," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 31(1), pages 67-83, February.


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