11.07.2019 in Medicine

Aids Pandemic In Africa

Many theories discussing about HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa have been brought forth with each theory holding certain hypothesis. Some of these theories seek to explain how this killer disease initially got into human. With this regard, some empirical literature suggests that HIV spread to human beings from chimpanzees. The research argues that the disease was initially reported in southern Cameroon but later, in 1960’s the disease had spread throughout the country and to other parts of Africa. some researchers also purport that AIDS emanated from Africa, then spread to Haiti before spreading to the rest of the world.

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            Some hypothesis states that the rapid urbanization in the colonial Africa played a great role in favouring the spread of HIV/AIDs. This was especially the case in West and Central Africa where HIV strain, HIV-1 group M, is thought to have emanated from. The risk of contracting the disease was further boosted by some behaviours and orientations such as homosexuality, bisexuality and polygamy. This is what actually led to the faster spread of the disease and remains a challenge to date.

            Furthermore, colonialization and international trade led to the spread of HIV/AIDs from Africa to the rest of the world and by 1980’s medical experts in America had observed a certain tolerant characteristics that accompanied previously treatable diseases. this was in fact the virus and by early 1980’s HIV that causes AIDS had been ascertained in the United States. There were also many concerns when some gay men in New York and California abruptly began to develop uncommon opportunistic infections and cancers with an impression of being resistant to available treatment.

            There are also many hypotheses that have been proposed to explain the exponential growth of AIDS in Africa in the recent years. The theories suggest that governments are partly to blame for inaction towards alleviating the disease. With this regard, activists say that very little is being done and that the funds channelled to deal with HIV related issues are hardly sufficient. Little awareness among the public especially with respect to the use of contraceptives is very little. This implies that there has been poor dissemination of relevant information that would help curb the disease by government agencies and other organizations. African governments are also blamed for the lack of support to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in terms of finances or otherwise. In fact, Nelson Mandela complained about the loss of the non-governmental organizations arguing that they felt frustrated by the governments move of not giving them the necessary support. He also felt that the NGOs were not being actively involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Other countries like Kenya held that declaring AIDS as a pandemic would discourage tourism and therefore impact negatively on the economy.

            The proportion of Africa’s population that is infected with HIV/AIDS has grown rapidly in the recent past and the epidemic is affecting people from all walks of life. It is however imperative to note that some people stands high risks of contracting the disease than others. Scientists have emphatically stated that some behaviours and cultures practiced by African communities continues to pose imminent danger to many people contracting the disease. These include homosexuality, polygamy inheritance of wives and opposition towards the use of contraceptives. it was initially thought that HIV was actually a homosexual related disease. Homosexuals were seen as bringing the disease upon themselves thus many governments excused themselves from acting. Moralization of the epidemic began when cases of innocent victims began to emerge, such as haemophiliacs and accident survivors. By this time, the HIV virus had spread so much. Today, more than 10 million children of Africa have been orphaned by AIDS. The myth was therefore demystified.

            The exponential growth of HIV/AIDS has been facilitated by having multiple sexual partners, especially near truck routes and flourishing urban centres. Contrary to the earlier impression, in the early 1990s, it was noted that the number of AIDS cases attributable to heterosexual transmission dominated those as a result of homosexual transmission. Sexual orientation is therefore an important factor to focus on in quest to fight the disease. It therefore follows that awareness should be created among African societies on better ways of living since many people are contracting the disease due to ignorance.

            Africa in general and Sub-Saharan Africa in particular has commenced on control measures that helps reduce AIDS prevalence. Tackling the AIDS crisis in Africa is a long-term task that requires sustained effort and planning – both within African countries themselves and amongst the international community. Great efforts have been noted in countries like Kenya, Zimbabwe and Uganda. One of the most important elements of the fight against AIDS in Africa has been the prevention of new HIV infections. This has resulted in significant progress in the treatment of HIV in recent years. Many African governments are also providing free voluntary and counselling services which have greatly helped reduced the rate at which HIV is spreading.

            In many parts of Africa, the AIDS epidemic is worsened by social and economic inequalities between men and women. Women and girls commonly face discrimination in terms of access to education, employment, credit, health care, land and inheritance. These factors can all put women in a position where they are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 50% of those living with HIV are female. Governments therefore have to initiate policies to ensure gender balance in an attempt to ensure women are independent and can make informed decisions pertaining sexual relationships. This is to ensure that women can thus practice safer sex when they know there are risks involved, thereby preventing or reducing chances of infection. To take such measures, governments are providing women awareness and understanding of HIV and AIDS. To promote this, a greater emphasis is placed on educating women and girls about AIDS, and adapting education systems to their needs. In fact, it has been noted that when prevention awareness is done early enough, women are able to better protect themselves when they become sexually active.

            HIV-related stigma and also discrimination remains an enormous barrier to the fight against AIDS. African societies are known to treat HIV positive persons as outcasts. This is not the case in the West. Fear of discrimination often prevents people from getting tested, seeking treatment and admitting their HIV status publicly. Since laws and policies alone cannot reverse the stigma that surrounds HIV infection, AIDS education in Africa has been scaled-up to combat the ignorance that causes people to discriminate. The fear and prejudice that lies at the core of HIV and AIDS discrimination is being tackled at both community and national levels.

            A number of African countries have conducted large-scale HIV prevention initiatives in an effort to reduce the magnitude of their epidemics. Senegal, for example, responded early to the emergence of HIV with strong political and community leadership. This early intervention helped, and Senegal has among the lowest infection rates in Africa. Uganda has also been successful, particularly because the powerful first lady, Janet, is leading the campaign. HIV prevalence among pregnant women in Uganda fell from a high of around 25% in the early 1990s to around 10% in 2000 and is now estimated to be 7% a change which is thought to have been largely as a result of intensive HIV prevention campaigns. However, there has been laxity, especially as a result of political disturbances, and prevalence is thought to be on the increase.

            In countries like Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Burkina Faso, governments have been offering free HIV Medicare and other forms of support to HIV affected people. A more important treatment is the antiretroviral treatment which is meant to keep the level of HIV in the body as low as possible. This also helps to prevent the weakening of the immune system of a person’s body and hence keep the person in question healthy and strong as though he were not infected. The ARVs also plays a crucial role in repairing the body cells that had already been damaged by HIV. It is important to note that ARVs should be prescribed in the right manner and by a practicing medical practitioner, otherwise they will be ineffective. Wrong dosage also makes the disease prevalent in human body hence hindering further treatment. In the entire Africa, there are few licensed ARV drugs and this has been a major challenge in the fight against this killer disease.

            In terms of use of contraceptives, there has been a sharp increase of condom use by African people in the recent past. For instance, in early 2011, Kenyan government made a remarkable move to avail more condoms to cater for their ever rising demand. The rising demand is also common in other African countries. For instance, in the year 2004, the entire condom donations amounted to 10 condoms for every man compared to 4 for every man in the year 2001. This has arguably reduced the risks of contracting the disease. Though condom provision in Africa has been effective, it has been criticized for being biased in that it mainly targets men only. Female condoms are rarely provided for free and more still, little is being done to encourage their use. It is actually true that women stands higher chances of contracting HIV/AIDS and this is among the many reasons. Furthermore, there are other cultural and social factors that continue to suppress the use of condoms thereby favoring faster spread of HIV. In some African communities for example, use of contraceptives is considered as contrary to morality and therefore a taboo. This ignorance has continued to lead to many infections for those who engage in unprotected sex. Mega corruption in the health sector of many African countries has also frustrated the contraceptive programs. It is not uncommon to walk into dispensaries to seek for condoms only to find the condom dispensers empty. It is not that condoms are being used at a higher rate but this is due to the action of some unscrupulous medical practitioners who steal them and paradoxically sell them via some chemists mainly owned by them.

            A number of countries in Africa have implemented national campaigns to encourage uptake of HIV testing. Since 2004, Burkina Faso has conducted annual testing campaigns, and in 2009 more than one million people were reportedly tested there for HIV. Lesotho, Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi have also conducted testing campaigns which have significantly increased the numbers of people tested. In 2009 for example, a third of Kenyan women and a fifth of Kenyan men reported that they had been tested for HIV in the last 1 year, compared to less than 10 % of Kenyan women and men in 2003. In Mozambique the number of women tested increased by 400% over the same period, and tripled among men. Across sub-Saharan Africa it is estimated that 66%of those who were tested for HIV in 2009, an increase of more than a third compared was recorded. African media outlets have been on the fore-front to popularize testing, and most of these statistics are available from the media.

            In conclusion, therefore, though much has been done to reduce the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in Africa, much also needs to be done. It is commendable that many African governments continue to fund HIV programs though the process is frustrated by some impediments like corruption. HIV alleviation has also been made a men’s affair since women are less catered for especially in terms of contraceptive provision; women condom are rarely provided by African governments. It is also important to note that some African countries have completely failed in the fight against HIV/AIDS. In South Africa for instance, government’s failure to respond to HIV pandemic resulted in rapid spread of the disease. In 2001, babies born with the virus counted to more than 50,000. It is therefore imperative for African governments to formulate and implement policies that will see HIV prevalence reduce to manageable levels. However, this may only be realized if all the stake holders viz. the society and NGOs partner with government.

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