It is commonly assumed that the extended family in Africa provides a safety net for individuals in times of need. This paper examines this assumption using data on the care of people with AIDS in a rural population in South West Uganda. Over a six month period data were collected by counsellors on the care given to 30 (17 women, 13 men) AIDS patients by their families. In 27 of the 30 cases there was evidence of limited care. Various reasons were given for this by the carers, including lack of food and money for medications and the carer's other family responsibilities. For 17 clients who died during the study period, records of seven cases show that other relatives were asked to help with care but refused on the grounds of poverty or other commitments. However, in all but one of these cases extended families did provide assistance for the funeral. The findings suggest that there is a need to question the assumption that the extended family, in the culture under study, is able to provide adequate support for AIDS patients.