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AIDS In Africa

Johannesburg, the largest metropolitan area in the continent of Africa. The population of the main metropolitan area is 1,907,229 ( WorldBook encycl. 130). Johannesburg is also one of the world richest gold fields. Despite these positive aspects, Johannesburg is a city with a dismal future, because it is suffering from one of the world’s worst AIDS epidemics. Every Saturday, nearby cemeteries are busy with the arrival of people who have died from AIDS. Funeral directors state that about 30 or 40 people are buried every week, as a result of AIDS.

It is said that in South Africa, one of every ten people has AIDS. Some 17 million people in Africa have died representing almost 80% of AIDS deaths world wide. This is the equivalent of the combined populations of New York City and Los Angeles (www. Time/2001/aidsafrica). There is a conspiracy of silence fueling the spread of HIV in South Africa. Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa, and has one of the fastest growing infection rates AIDS is now South Africa’s leading cause of death. Last year it accounted for 40% of all deaths between the ages of 15 and 49 (US. ws2. yimg. com).

By the year 2010, HIV prevalence in adults is projected to reach 25% of the total population. South Africa is projected to have the highest AIDS death rate until 2015. At that point, the population will have decreased to the point that the death rate will no longer be as high as in other areas. South Africa has a population close to 40 million people – an estimated 4. 2 million (10. 5%) are infected with HIV. Of these, half are women ages 15-49. Over 40% of pregnant women are HIV-positive. The impact of AIDS in South Africa is overwhelming.

The disease has orphaned 370,952 children 95,000 children have been infected with AIDS. The adult prevalence rate of HIV is 20%. While there are limits in extrapolating the general population, it is estimated that 4. 2 million people were HIV positive in 1999, compared to approximately 3. 6 million in 1998. (www. securethefuture. com). Statement of Need: Understanding who is Affected by AIDS Demographics show that those most affected by AIDS are women and children. African women and children have been particularly hard hit by AIDS.

There are now 16 million African children who have lost at least one parent to AIDS. Johannesburg medical agencies state in their reports that in the next 10 years, that number will reach 28 million. This is a heartbreaking statistic, but an even more compelling message comes from one of those most affected by the crisis: “I’m actually an orphan and I’m infected,” says 11-year old Nkosi Johnson. “I am a very lucky little boy, and I am living with a in the world and ironically AIDS is a word not spoken at ground zero of humanity’s deadliest disease. ster family, but I am strong and healthy.

That’s just what I want for all orphans to have”(www. cnn. com/health/aids). When the children’s parents die the relatives don’t want them because it is already hard to make a living for their own families. As a result, the children end up in an orphan camp. Many children get infected through breast-feeding as infants. Due to food supply shortages, most mothers breast-feed their children to keep them from starving to death. Most women get aids from sexual intercourse with their husbands or through rape.

Wives, girlfriends and even prostitutes in this part of the country say it is not easy to say no to sex in a male dominated culture. Women do not have choices due to their cultural traditions. It is said that if a woman asks a man to use a condom, she is considered a whore and an outcast. When it comes to sex in South Africa, the man is always in charge. Girls and women are often forced to have sex and are punished if they resist. There is a belief in some areas that having sex with a virgin can cure an infected man. As a result, 12-year-old girls become infected.

Men rarely know they have AIDS, because males widely refuse testing until they fall ill. Many men who think they may have AIDS just embrace it as if nothing is wrong until they get sick. They take the attitude that “I’m already infected, I can sleep around because I can’t get it again. ” Meanwhile, they may be passing on the infection to unsuspecting African women. The women then unknowingly pass it on to their children. Men tested in Johannesburg clinics were found to have an HIV rate close to 19% HIV infected women outnumber HIV infected men by a ratio of more than 6-to-5

By the turn of the century, the epidemic will have left behind 11. 2 million orphans (www. usaid. gov/pop_health/aids/country). South Africa is the eye of the storm in terms of the AIDS epidemic. 60 percent of men, 80 percent of women, and 90 percent of the children infected worldwide live in the South African region. Statement of Need: Understanding Nature of the Epidemic Many people are not even aware of what the AIDS virus is. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, and is known as HIV in its earlier stage. Although technically it is not a disease, it is often referred to as one.

AIDS is an all encompassing term for the many medical conditions that arise from a weakened immune system that can no longer fight infection (World Book encycl. 163). What people fail to understand is that people do not die from AIDS. Most people with AIDS die from infections or sometimes from a common cold. This epidemic is the single most important health and development issue the world faces today. Many books have been written on the subject, but people still remain unaware about what HIV is and how it is spread. AIDS is first and foremost a biomedical condition.

HIV is one of a family of retroviruses that enter the bloodstream and attack the body’s immune system, compromising its ability to fight infection. Scientists are not certain how, when, or where this virus came from or when it first infected mankind. There are many different studies of how it came forth, but this is not a primary concern right now. AIDS infects certain white blood cells, including T- helper cells and macrophages, which play key roles in the immune system (WorldBook encycl…163). The virus attaches itself to CD4 receptor molecules on the surface of these cells.

AIDS enters CD4 cells and inserts its own genes into the cell’s reproductive system. The cell then produces more HIV, which spreads to other CD4 cells. Eventually, infected cells die (WorldBook encycl. 163). The immune system tries to reproduce more CD4 cells, but the HIV destroys them as fast as they are produced. People who get infected have certain symptoms including enlarged lymph glands, fatigue, fever, loss of appetite and weight, diarrhea, yeast infections of the mouth and vagina, and night sweats ( WorldBook encycl. 163).

There are four stages of HIV infection. The first of which is Acute Retroviral Syndrome, f ollowed by Seroconversion, the Asymptomatic period, and finally full-blown AIDS. HIV can be transmitted during all stages of infection, even when no symptoms occur. The first stage is known as the Acute Retroviral Syndrome. The body’s initial immune response develops a small measure of control over the virus. This stage lasts up to three weeks during which up to 90% of people will develop non-specific symptoms common to many viral infections.

These can include such symptoms as night sweats, fever, malaise, headaches, and enlarged lymph glands. At this point the infected person’s blood will test positive for the HIV antibodies even though the main symptoms will not show until 2 to 15 years later and sometimes even longer. During this stage the person usually keeps a normal amount of CD4 cells. During this stage the victim’s body still has considerable control over its immune system. The second stage of this virus is called Seroconversion. This is the period where the body develops antibodies to ward off HIV.

Even though HIV will ultimately win the battle, the immune system is able to keep the virus in check for a number of years. This stage lasts for a period of 6 to 12 weeks during which the antibodies are not detectable. A blood test during this time will return negative results. This period is often referred to as the “window period,” and is the most dangerous time because a person can easily infect another person even though they have tested negative for HIV (WorldBook encycl. 164). Once the antibodies are detected, the blood test result will be positive and Serconversion will have taken place.

While the antibodies reduce the concentrations of HIV, they do not destroy it entirely, and the person will still have this deadly virus in their system and can infect others with the virus. This stage also has some major symptoms that includes fatigue, enlarged lymph glands, yeast infections, skin rashes and dental disease. During this stage the CD4 blood cells decline, ranging from 500 to 200 CD4 cells per microliter of blood ( WorldBook encycl. 164). The next stage is known as the Asymptomatic stage. This stage is also known as the silent but deadly stage.

During this stage an HIV positive person will generally remain clinically healthy. While in this stage, the virus slowly but surely spreads throughout the body. The way one can tell that the disease is spreading is by counting the CD4 cells in the blood. A person who does not have the HIV virus normally has 700 to 1300 CD4 cells per milliliter of blood. As the virus spreads, it destroys CD4 cells. At the later end of this stage, the body reaches a point where it only has 300 to 200 CD4 cells, marking the final stage of the Asymptomatic stage. Due to the low count of CD4 cells, the body has a hard time fighting off infections.

A common cold can last for months with an HIV positive person. Some common symptoms of this stage are thrush, shingles, tuberculosis coupled with weight loss, diarrhea, fever, and fatigue (WorldBook encycl. 164-165). In most third world countries, people can go through this stage without actually knowing they are sick with the virus. The final stage is full-blown AIDS. This is the stage where the CD4 cells drop below 200, and a person becomes open to infections such as drug resistance pneumonia, tuberculosis, meningitis, and other bacteria infections ( WorldBook encycl. 4).

This is the stage where the person moves from having HIV to full blown AIDS. During this stage medical costs increase and jobs are lost, placing enormous strain on the finances of the victim. Most deaths occur when the CD4 cell levels fall below 50. At this point the body can no longer fight off infection. The breakdown of the immune system eventually leads to death (WorldBook encycl. 164). This disease has many ways of being transferred from one individual to another. Researchers say they have identified three ways in which HIV is transmitted:

Sexual intercourse Direct contact with infected blood Transmissions from an infected woman to her fetus or baby (WorldBook Encycl. 164). In South Africa, AIDS is primarily contracted through sexual intercourse. People who share needles during drug use provide another way to tranfer this disease. Another mode of transmission that is common in Johannesburg is mother-to-child transmission. Sexual intercoure is the main method of transmission for this virus. In third world countries, sexual tansmission accounts for the higest percentage of infection.

The greatest concentration of the virus is found in the blood, secretions, and semen of infected persons. HIV is transmitted through all forms of sexual intercourse including genital, anal, and oral sex. Many men in this part of Africa consider the use of sexual prophelactics to be a taboo. Therefore, unprotective sex is one of the main methods of transmission for this virus. Another mode of transmission is blood-to-blood. Blood-to-blood transmission occurs when HIV-contaminated blood comes into contact with uninfected blood. The main transmission comes through sharing drug injection equipment.

Drug injections are a major reason for the high number of AIDS victims in Johannesburg. The problem with sharing needles is that it gives people direct contact with the virus as the needle penatrates directly into the blood stream. Disimilar from industrialized nations, blood transfusions in third world countries are dangerous. Industrialized countries have sophisticated screening mechanisms that have been introduced to ensure that blood products are HIV negative. Third world countries do not have the same kind of sophistcated devices to ensure that their tranfusions are safe.

One of the most serious modes in South Africa is the mother to child transmission. This can occur in two ways. The first way is when the infant comes into contact with the blood of an infected mother in the utterus. The second is when an infected mother breast feeds her infant. It is estimated that about 50 to 65% of child infections occur at birth (www. cia/publication/factbook). Another dismal aspect involves the fact that even if they escape infection at birth, the risk is still there because most South African women breast feed their infants.

A woman infected with HIV can pass the virus on to her baby during pregnancy, while giving birth, or when breast feeding. Another problem is how to prevent babies from getting HIV. A woman who is infected with HIV has 1 chance in 4 of having an infected infant. Medical treatment with a drug called AZT during pregnancy can reduce the risk of a baby getting infected to 1 in 12 (www. cdcnpin. org). Pregnant mothers who are infected must be told to avoid breast feeding, and the baby must also receive AZT treatments for the first several weeks of its life.

This might slow down the number of infected children being infected but it will not eliminate it. There is a need for encouragement to mothers who think they maybe infected with the virus to get tested. There are also many counseling programs that have been set up as AIDS clinics all over South Africa to educate people about the epidemic that is sweeping through their country. There are also some new intervention strategies that are planned but not quite in action yet. Many nations around the world are searching to find an effective vaccine for this virus.

Others are provi ing condoms, drug therapy, safe blood supplies, needle exchange programs, and other beneficial AIDS prevention services. Many people have come up with programs to slow the transmission of the virus. Some programs have developed HIV/AIDS strategies that improve the approach, system, and tools available to prevent the spread of the pandemic by treating those infected while providing care and support for children and families affected by AIDS. has been on changing behavior, supporting children affected by AIDS, and encouraging the use of condoms. One main way to prevent AIDS is to educate people about effective prevention.

Educating people about AIDS has become a primary approach to preventing infection. One way to prevent the spread of HIV is to educate people about safe sex. Abstaining from sex is the only way to fully prevent the sexual transmission of HIV. One must also be realistic and understand that people are going to continue having sex, despite whatever risk may be apparent. For those who are sexually active, the consistent and correct use of latex condoms is encouraged. Condoms must be made of latex because they are most effective in preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

Another encouraged technique involves checking on a partner’s sexual history before becoming sexually involved. People are also encouraged to avoid any transaction of body fluids with infected persons. Efforts have been made to create an understanding that people should not share razors, toothbrushes, or any devices that may contain blood, semen, or vaginal fluids. Also, people are told that if they feel that they have participated in acts through which the virus could have been contracted, they should refrain from donating blood, plasma, body organs, or tissues (www. cdcnpin. org).

Despite all of the afore mentioned prevention and treatment strategies, AIDS remains more potent than ever in South Africa. The biggest problem with traditional AIDS prevention strategies is that they are dependent on an audience that is open to listening to information about AIDS, and acknowledging the need to take action. In South Africa and many other developing nations, AIDS is not a matter that is appropriate for discussion. Those who are discovered to have AIDS are ostracized from their culture. It is clear that efforts need to be made to destroy cultural taboos on the subject of AIDS.

This project infiltrates the popular culture of South Africa with underlying themes directly involving AIDS. Gradually, it will become easier for South Africans to discuss and acknowledge the AIDS epidemic. At that point, other prevention and treatment methods will be much more successful. The first step must be to establish a forum that establishes the presence of AIDS in the popular culture of South Africa. This project is one very effective method of establishing dialogue and awareness regarding AIDS in an otherwise close minded and ignorant society.

The future does not look too bright for South Africa if lifestyles do not change. The primary contributor to this epidemic is ignorance, followed by poverty, lack of development, and the low status of women. It’s not just their behaviors that need to be changed, but many of their traditions, beliefs, and customs. The epidemic has climaxed to the point that the average life expectancy for a South African has gone from 65 to 56, and is expected to drop to 30 in the next 10 years (www. cnn. com/health).

The U. S census Bureau projects that by 2010 South Africa will have 71 million fewer people than it would have had without AIDS (www. cnn. com/health). Projections for 2010 have the adult HIV prevalence rate reaching 25%. In the next 10 years, the number of AIDS related orphans is expected to reach 28 million (www. cnn. com). It is projected that everyday for the next 5 years, 1600 babies will be born with HIV. After taking all of these horrible statistics into account, it is obvious that traditional str ategies and campaigns are not enough, and a a new approach needs to be considered.

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StudyBoss » AIDS » AIDS In Africa

AIDS in Africa

The AIDS epidemic has reached disastrous proportions on the continent of Africa. Over the past two decades, two thirds of the more than 16 million people in the world infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, live in sub-Saharan Africa. It is now home to the largest number of people infected, with 70 percent of the world’s HIV infected population. The problem of this ongoing human tragedy is that Africa is also the least equipped region in the world to cope with all the challenges posed by the HIV virus.

In order understand the social and economic consequences of the disease, it is important to study the relationship between poverty, the global response, and the effectiveness of AIDS prevention, both government and grass roots. Half of the world’s cases are found in what is referred to as the AIDS belt, a chain of countries in eastern and southern Africa that is home to two percent of the global population. The main vehicle for spreading HIV throughout Africa is heterosexual intercourse.

In contrast, this is the opposite compared to the U. S. where the virus is usually transmitted through homosexual intercourse or contaminated syringes shared by drug users. Besides heterosexual intercourse, HIV transmission through transfusion and contaminated medical equipment is common in sub-Saharan Africa. Africans infected with HIV die much sooner after diagnosis than HIV infected people in other parts of the world. In industrialized countries, the survival time after diagnosis of AIDS ranges from 9 to 26 months, but in Africa the survival time for patients is 5 to 9 months (UNAIDS 3).

Factors, such as lower access to health care, poorer quality of health care services, poorer levels of average health and nutrition, and greater exposure to pathogens that cause infection all contribute to the shorter survival in Africa. It is difficult to stop the flood of AIDS cases in Africa because it is not yet known by researchers the factors that contribute to outstanding prevalence of the disease among heterosexuals. This diagnosis will help determine how likely it is that heterosexual epidemics will spread to Asia or the West. Even though AIDS is heavily researched, its origin still remains a partial mystery.

It is know that HIV is a zoonosis, a human disease acquired from animals. The virus evolved from a Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV): a type of slow virus found naturally in monkeys and apes which, while not harming the host, produces diseases in other primates (Caldwell 97). How the virus crossed species is still unclear, though. Researchers are unable to identify a specific origin, and if they were able to, they would automatically be accusing someone or something, which would be difficult to accept knowing that it was responsible for inflicting Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) on the world.

Consequentially, the biological and geographical origins of the HIV virus remain vague. However, the virus still represents one the deadliest threats to human life in the developing world, where 90 percent of all infected person reside (Caldwell 98). HIV is most well established in sub-Saharan Africa, where 23. 5 million people infected with virus live (UNAIDS 4). Since this is the most unprepared place for the epidemic it makes it extremely difficult for people to receive care. It is becoming clearer that HIV threatens to wipe out fragile development gains achieved over many decades.

The United Nations Development Program calculates that 50 percent of Africans will live to 60, compared with an average of 70 percent for all developing countries and 90 percent for industrialized countries (UNAIDS 6). As a result, it greatly threatens the development in Africa, impacting it on all levels. At the continental level, of the 23 million people living with HIV/AIDS, most will die in the next 5-10 years, joining the 13. 7 million Africans already killed, leaving behind broken families and crippled prospects for development (Est. Death 60).

The virus has already surpassed malaria as the major killer in Africa, but its structural impact threatens to be even more destructive. Across the continent, life expectancy at birth rose by 15 years from 44 years in the early 1950’s to 59 in the early 1990’s, thanks to AIDS the figure is set recede back to 44 between 2005 and 2010 (UNAIDS 6). Economically, AIDS has taken its toll across Africa. Recent evidence shows that companies doing business in Africa are suffering as a consequence and are bracing themselves for far worse as their workers frequently become sick and die.

According to a survey of commercial farms in Kenya, illness and death have already replaced old-age retirement as the leading reason why employees leave service (Tatum 12). On one sugar estate, a quarter of the entire workforce was infected with HIV. Direct cash costs related to HIV rose dramatically with company’s trying to keep up with spending on funerals and constant absentees causing productivity to fall lower every month, forcing many owners to sell their companies. Now, illness and death largely caused by HIV, is the number one reason for people leaving a company.

The six countries in southern Africa that are most affected by the epidemic are Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Within these countries, one in six adults is HIV positive and AIDS is expected to kill between 8% and 25% of today’s practicing doctors by 2005 (Est. Death 61). More than 2000 Zimbabweans die of AIDS each week and in Botswana an estimated 4. 2 million people are infected and is expected to increase as the HIV prevalence rate has tripled since 1992. One in four adults living in Zambian cities is HIV positive and one in seven Zambian adults are infected in the country’s rural areas (Caldwell 98).

It is unknown why Africans are affected by the HIV virus more than others, but the large amount of people living in poverty could contribute to the increasing epidemic. In Africa, poverty has been increasing at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world making Africans account for one out every four poor people in the world. Within the continent, four out of every 10 Africans live in conditions of absolute poverty (Caldwell 98). Africa is also the only region in the world where both the number and proportion of poor people are expected to increase.

The poverty is a result of weak endowments of human and financial resources, such as low levels of education, poor health, and low labor productivity. The poor health status can be attributed with existence of undiagnosed and untreated sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), which is a significant contributor to the transmission of HIV. Poor households often to do not have the financial basis to counter such diseases and as a result of these circumstances, it puts Africans at higher risk of contracting the HIV virus.

This risk is even higher in rural impoverished environments where large amounts of mobile populations are isolated from traditional groups and in these new conditions engage in risky sexual activity with consequences of HIV infection and no way to treat it. In South Africa, throughout the past century, men around the southern African region were hired to work in Southern Africa gold, mineral and diamond mines. They leave their families behind, usually in rural villages, to live in all male labor camps and return maybe one a year. Since the men are not usually well-educated, they turn to home brewed alcohol and sex for leisure.

Men that work in South African gold mines have a one in 40 chance of being crushed by falling rock, so the risks of HIV seem remote to them. Mining companies pay $18 million a year in wages to 88,000 workers in Carletonville, the center of South Africa’s gold industry. These wages usually go to purchasing sex, causing 22% of adults in Carletonville to be HIV positive in 1999 (Wohlgemut 485). When these men return to their rural villages, they often carry the virus into their communities. As a result, HIV infection often clusters in families, when both parents are HIV positive.

Poor families do not have the means to deal with effects with HIV infection in a whole family and this lack of savings makes it very difficult to cope with the impact of illness or death. The poor already have to live within margins of survival that are unable to deal with health costs such as drug costs to treat infections, transport costs to health centers, and reduced household productivity through illness and funeral related costs. These poor families are never able to recover from the family losses and productivity, and a household’s chance of survival is greatly diminished.

The strain on the capacity of families to cope with consequences of illness causes them to disintegrate as social and economic units. With sole providers like parents gone, it further exposes the rest of the family members to poverty which in turn increases their chances of contracting HIV. This is particularly common with young woman, who are often forced to engage in sex as a means of supporting themselves or family members. Sometimes they become casual sex workers (CSW), but they usually work on an occasional basis just for survival.

As a result, the risk of HIV infection is much higher for young women unable to support themselves by other means (Siedel 133). The reason that these young women are at higher risk for contracting the virus is the large amount of girls having unprotected sex. Today, this is not uncommon when anyone looks at teenage pregnancy statistics, but the governments in Africa ignore the problem the most, refusing to create sex education in schools. Woman in Kenya are three times more likely to contract HIV then men but conservatives and religious groups still strictly oppose putting sex education in their schools (Siedel 134).

Another factor contributing to the high rate of HIV infection in young women is the amount of girls having sex with older men. Young women already sexually active are at an even higher risk than the prevalence rate suggests and girls that have recently become sexual active and are infected with HIV are more contagious because the virus replicates very quickly at the beginning of an infection (Milligan 5). Having unprotected sex with young women puts an older man at higher risk of contracting the virus then if he were to have sex with a woman his own age.

Women are more likely to be exposed to HIV depending on were they live as well. When comparing West and Southern Africa it is easier to see how poverty can affect a women contracting HIV. In West Africa, infection rates have always been lower than Southern Africa. One reason for this is that women are more involved in the economic life in West Africa than any other part of the continent. They are less dependent on men for survival than East and Southern Africa, and they have more control when engaging sex, having more influence when it comes to protection.

This more realistic attitude towards sex has helped tremendously with HIV prevention programs in West Africa. After twenty years of trying to establish a strategy to counter the AIDS epidemic in Africa, actually employing a plan has been difficult as a result of three factors: the African governments lack of support in countering the virus, the pharmaceutical companies that hide behind patent laws that allow them to sell essential drugs at high costs, and World Bank and the International Monitory Fund (IMF) who decide public policy in Africa (USAID 47).

In many countries in Africa, poor economic management, high inflation, and corruption are common, and military spending often outweighs education. When AIDS is combined with an already deteriorating society it only falls further into a grim situation. This leaves little option for young people looking to survive. Instead planning for the future there is a strong emphasis for short term survival among young people in Africa (Milligan 5). This includes exchanging sex for money, schooling, a job, or just somewhere to sleep.

The problem is that on a continent where HIV is so prevalent, short term strategies often result in premature death. This all creates a large developmental challenge, the AIDS epidemic must be countered with programs but developmental plans for the future also need to be reformulated to address the real threat of the HIV virus. The governments have a large responsibility in attending to these problems, only they can place AIDS at the center of the agenda and create a system where others can effectively address the situation.

Right now, religious groups and non-governmental organizations lead in countering the epidemic, but with government support they can create the policy and legal environment to really be effective. Finally, only the governments can protect the poor and those who are particularly at risk of infection, by trying to reduce household poverty, keep women out of the sex trade, improve information about sexual education and encourage the use of sexual protection to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

Most African leaders, until recently, have stayed indifferent in approaching the AIDS epidemic, with the exception of Senegal and Uganda. In Uganda, an early response to HIV prevention has cause the prevalence rate of the virus to decline noticeably. From 1985 to 1990, the amount of HIV infections rose 20%, but since 1993 the prevalence has declined 18% in Uganda thanks to an aggressive approach to AIDS prevention (UNAIDS 7). The numbers of HIV prevalence declination are similar in Senegal where they have also adopted HIV prevention programs.

With the exception of Uganda and Senegal though, most African leaders are in a state of denial, simply ignoring the massive effect it has on their countries. Usually, they disregard the information that they receive about the epidemic claiming that the moral values of their societies would not allow transmission of an agent such as HIV that is associated with risky sexual behavior, homosexuality and drug use. President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa even questioned the scientific link between HIV and AIDS.

Even where leaders have accepted that AIDS exists and is problem, the methods they use to counter it often makes it worse. In Malawi, President Bakili Muluzi instructed his police troops to do periodic raids on known brothels to slow down the spread of AIDS and gave his police authoritarian powers to restrict civil liberties of prostitutes and their clients. The case is similar in Swaziland where proposals have been made for a special place where people that are HIV positive can be kept so they do not spread the disease.

Suggestions for HIV positive citizens to be sterilized and branded were even discussed. African leaders attempt at reducing the spread of AIDS through stigmatizing citizens makes the struggle against HIV even harder because people are less likely to get tested in fear for the lives (Zwarenstein 5). The strongest example of this is the story of Gugu Dhlamini, who was beaten to death in South Africa after admitting she was HIV positive. One reason most African leaders are reluctant to approach the HIV virus more effectively is the anticipated economic trouble on African economies.

In Africa, countries are constantly under pressure from the IMF and World Bank to maintain financial discipline under a number of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs). Basically, the IMF does not allow countries in Africa to run massive deficits like a country such as the U. S. , so there is not enough money to spread over all of Africa to start up programs to combat AIDS. Even though these adjustment programs have been employed for two decades, no African country has been able to achieve a sound macroeconomic policy.

World Bank claims this is a result of African countries not following the adjustment policies correctly, and African leaders say it because policies are impossible to implement successfully. Either way there is nothing being done to try to fix the problem and create a policy that is effective. What is known is that these adjustment programs is that they often affect the poorest people in society, impacting food prices, costs of education, and payment for medical services for the worse (Tatum 12).

Many believe that the SAPs are part of the problem mainly because across the continent they have done little help social, political, and economic conditions that could help construct an effective strategy against the HIV virus. There is no cure for the HIV virus, however, over the past ten years there have been many breakthroughs in anti-retroviral drugs that slow down the course of the HIV infection. The problem is that these drugs have fallen into the hands of powerful pharmaceutical companies that use their ownership over these life sustaining drugs to make huge profits.

The multibillion dollar pharmaceutical companies in the U. S. and Europe are rivals on the market place, but issue they agree on is copyright laws that allow them to control the manufacturing, distribution, and pricing on the drugs. They have fought hard to protect their privileges because they say if they infringed on the copyright laws to allow poor countries cheap access to AIDS drugs then there would be pirating of the drugs causing global business to suffer. Representatives of the pharmaceutical companies simply stated that if the copyright was not protected then no one would bother to invest the time and research to continue developing drugs to fight AIDS.

Unfortunately, this argument has given rise to a situation where all AIDS drugs in Africa are more expensive where the need it the most. Recently, at a conference held in Nairobi on Improving Access to Essential Medicines’, delegates were told that the potent antibiotic, Ciprofloxacin, the most successful antiviral drug on the market, was twice as expensive in Uganda than in Norway. Similarly, Fluconazole, a treatment for AIDS related meningitis is thirty cents in the U. S. where in Kenya the same drug costs eighteen dollars, where it is patent protected.

It is the same for many treatments across Africa, other drugs show that 10 out of 13 commonly used drugs are more expensive in Africa than anywhere else (Chossudovsky 17). That means in order to pay for these drugs people in Africa have to work 215 days to afford them where someone in Canada would have to work eight days. The position of these pharmaceutical companies to capitalize on a grim situation and their ability to make these drugs as expensive as they want is even more devastating to the people that need it most.

In an effort to counter this reality, some of the largest pharmaceutical companies agreed to cut prices the prices of their AIDS treatment drugs for Africa. At first this seems to be a huge step forward in combating the HIV virus, but all the agreement states is how the drug companies might proceed to improve access and availability to the drugs, but does not say how much the drugs will cost. So there are still may unanswered questions concerning if this proposed reduction in cost will actually be effective.

It is also unclear that if this move by the drug companies is an authentic effort to make life-saving drugs available to the largest amount of people or just a ploy to protect their worldwide monopoly on the manufacturing and distribution of these drugs. Across the continent of Africa the HIV epidemic has presented overwhelming challenges of survival and development to communities and societies. There is no way to tell what exactly will be the long term effects of the epidemic. In order to counter the virus effectively, action must be taken on a national and international level in order to have an impact.

In Africa, the spread of HIV is a devastating contribution to already bleak problem of poverty, food shortage and famine. These issues make the consequences of the epidemic even more crucial. With a disease that claims more lives everyday and growing and no way to properly treat them, it makes the effects of the virus damaging on many levels. Because of the poor economic situation, it causes citizens to take risks that greatly increase the chance of contracting HIV. Particularly, women have very few options for supporting themselves or their family and are forced to engage in activities that leave them unprotected against HIV infection.

Low standards of health, unequal power structures, and the lack of HIV protection and prevention all contribute to the ongoing spread of AIDS and further the problems of the people affected by it. The situation of the Africa AIDS epidemic creates a viscous cycle where it continues to change the environment to one that increases the spread of HIV. Unless aggressive action is made to respond to the threat of the AIDS, the growing epidemic will weaken more people already suffering.

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