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AIDS in Africa

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is one of the most deadly viruses in the world. No country in Africa has escaped the virus. Some have been effected more then others though. The spread of AIDS in Africa is because of poor medical treatment and a lack of education on the part of the people. HIV is the virus which causes AIDS. (Aids in Africa,1994) HIV stands for Human Immune-deficiency Virus. The virus attacks the bodies immune system and weakens it.

Scientists have wondered about the origin of HIV ever since the epidemic emerged. Experts believe that the virus was contracted through Chimpanzees. AIDS came from Chimps, 1999) Perhaps when someone was bitten by a chimp, or a hunter was exposed to contaminated blood while field dressing an animal. (AIDS came from Chimps, 1999) Tests were done by Dr. Beatrice Hahn of the University of Alabama. Her studies tracked HIV back to a virus that infects four sub-species of chimps that live in Africa. (AIDS came from Chimps, 1999)

Hahn and her team studied frozen tissue from a chimp that died of complications at childbirth. In this frozen tissue their was the chimp version of the AIDS virus, called SIVcpz. The genes in SIVcpz are genetically similar to the AIDS virus. AIDS came from Chimps, 1999) Chimps who have probably carried this virus for thousands of years do not get sick from it. Researchers are trying to find out why chimps are not effected by this virus, because it may lead to a cure. (Aids in Africa,1994) This productive finding about the virus wasn’t found until 1997 when testing started. (Aids in Africa,1994) If it would have been found sooner maybe the massive spread of AIDS could have been prevented. Since the start of the epidemic an estimated 34 million people living inSub-Saharan Africa in 1998 were infected with HIV. AIDS,1991)

This is due to alack of education on the part of the people in Africa. They are not taught about the virus as we are in the United States. In this country the public and media educate the people about AIDS, including how to prevent the disease. Without embarrassment, Americans openly discuss methods in which the disease is transmitted. However in African cultures confronting sexual issues that cause AIDS and HIV is very uncommon. (AIDS the epidemic,1994) In Africa AIDS has become the number one cause of death, overtaking Malaria. (The AIDS Reader,1991) The U. N.

AIDS/health experts say more than 40million people contracted the disease in 1980’s and nearly 12 million of them have died in Africa. (The AIDS Reader,1991) If the people in Sub-Saharan Africa were educated about preventing the spread of AIDS and HIV maybe the statistics wouldn’t be so dramatically different from other countries. In the African countries good medical treatment can be hard to find. The United States has a better economy, and more highly trained professionals then Africa. The lower quality of medical treatment in Africa has contributed to some of the spread of AIDS in the past. The AIDS Reader,1991)

Unfortunately the cost of drugs to slow down the disease can cost $10,000-$20,000 per year per person. (The AIDS Reader,1991) This keeps most infected HIV patients from getting the needed drugs because they cant afford them.. This amount of money would cover the annual health care for 200 people in Zimbabwe. (The AIDS Reader,1991) A family in Sub-Saharan Africa might spend between $600 and $1,500 to care for a person living with AIDS. (The AIDS Reader,1991) This money could be used for a college education or other basic necessities.

This country was hit so hard with AIDS that more then one-quarter of working-age adults are infected with HIV and are forced to use money for health care. (AIDS the epidemic,1994) Zimbabwe was the hardest hit country of AIDS or HIV. In this country about half of all hospital beds are filled with patients who have AIDS and AIDS related symptoms. (AIDS,1991) Even if we stopped AIDS now the millions of people already living with it would make the disease continue. In Zimbabwe 25 testing sites were set up to test pregnant women’s blood for HIV virus.

At two of these sites less then 10% were infected, but at the remaining sites almost half were infected. (Aids in Africa,1994) All pregnant women with the virus have a risk of passing it onto the baby. One other major problem in the spread of AIDS is through rape and sexual abuse. In Africa these kinds of sexual actions are never discussed by the media or by the public. All the sexual problems, whether cultural or personal, are kept secrets. Confronting these issues is so uncommon in this culture that rapists are often “let off the hook,” and go free. AIDS the epidemic,1994)

In Africa young girls are not willingly being sexually active at young ages. AIDS and HIV are getting spread through crimes and forced sexual contact. Older men and women are spreading this disease whether they know they have it or not. At this point and time, AIDS is incurable, although there are drugs that will increase a patients life span. (Aids in Africa,1994) An older AZT treatment mixed with newer drugs called protease inhibitors will raise the T-cells in the immune system and help strengthen it. Aids in Africa,1994)

This is not a cure, but it is a start in helping victims of the virus. However there is a problem; this new drug is unavailable to African’s or to expensive. (The AIDS reader,1991) If African health care professionals and government officials made a greater effort to educate everyone about the danger of AIDS, in the future the death rate could be greatly lowered. The media should be used more openly to discuss problems with the spreading of the disease. Clinics set up in remote areas of the country reach many people who do not have access to modern forms of media.

These clinics blend more with the people and their culture should be used to educate the hard to reach people. Law enforcement officials could do their part by enforcing penalties against sexual abusers and not letting them go free. If the people of Africa were informed and had support in dealing with the sexual topics that cause the spread of the disease. Africans would have better lives and not have to suffer through so much sickness and death. The spread of this disease is mainly due to miss education of Africans and poor medical treatment in Africa.

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