AIDS In Africa

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AIDS in Africa


Spreading rampant throughout the African continent, AIDS is killing any and all who cross its path. “As the death toll from AIDS recedes in America, Africa is reeling from an epidemic of Biblical proportions. South of the Sahara, AIDS is worse than anywhere else in the world, and this catastrophe is transforming the continent forever” (Schoofs part 5). Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, better known as AIDS “is a virus that weakens the immune system and subjects the patient to opportunistic diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis. The virus is transmitted through the exchange of body fluids, primarily semen, blood, and blood products…it can be prevented by having protected sex…AIDS is a problem throughout the world, especially in sub-Saharan Africa” (DeSalle 238). It is an unbiased killer that threatens the African population. With very little education, parentless children, and cultural and societal beliefs, AIDS continues to run havoc on the continent of Africa.

“Only 10 percent of the world's population lives south of the Sahara, but the region is home to two-thirds of the world's HIV-positive people, and it has suffered more than 80 percent of all AIDS deaths”…Last year, the combined wars in Africa killed 200,000 people, and in sub-Saharan Africa alone 3.8 million people became infected with the disease while another 2.4 million died; totaling 25.3 million people who are living with AIDS in Africa (Schoofs part 1, Carey). One main reason for the severity of these numbers is due to the lack of education of the African people. With little or no education, people do not truly understand the consequences of unprotected sex and sex with multiple partners. African girls are not sent to school because it is too expensive and most are only going to get married and have children. The males who go to school learn that they are the breadwinners of the family and that they control what goes on in the house.

The lack of education poses an astronomical problem in Africa and is the major reason for the spread of AIDS. Since people are uneducated about birth control, they do not use condoms; those who are aware of it either do not have access to condoms or cannot afford them. Without education or access to condoms, AIDS will continue its devastation throughout the African continent. “In apartheid South Africa, blacks were either not educated at all or taught only enough to be servants.

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Now, as the country suffers one of the world's most explosive AIDS epidemics, illiteracy hampers prevention. Indeed, AIDS itself is rendering Africa still more vulnerable to any future catastrophe, continuing history's vicious cycle” (Schoofs part 1). The lack of education is what spreads the disease because children continue to be born into a world of poverty and disease where they have no hope of getting an education and rising to a better place.

     The African people do not allow their women to speak for themselves and those who are educated enough to know that condoms will help protect them have a terrible time convincing the men to wear them. Basic education about the transmission of HIV and AIDS can raise the awareness of the African people and hopefully lead to changes in their behavior. Education can help to save millions of people from becoming infected with the AIDS virus, but unfortunately behavioral change cannot halt the epidemic because it is so widespread. Until education becomes more widespread and available, millions will continue to fall victim to the AIDS epidemic.

Orphans in sub-Saharan Africa have always been placed with an extended family member, but with “more than 7 million children in sub-Saharan Africa [who] have lost one or both parents…they are more likely to be poor…more likely to be deprived of education…more likely to be seething with all the needs that make it more likely that a person will have unsafe sex” (Schoofs). The children who end up living with an extended family member are the lucky ones. Unfortunately very few are lucky and “many of those who have not been forcibly removed to the orphanage are street children- pickpockets and beggars, prostitutes and thieves” (Kaheru 42). Regardless of where the children end up, it is likely that they will never rise above poverty level. AIDS deprives these children of foster parents. Just as the virus takes over the body and slowly weakens its defense system, it destroys the family as well as the extended family and leaves no one to look after the children. Many orphans contracted AIDS while in the womb or during childbirth, and those who did not will most likely contract later in life. “The worst consequence of this epidemic is not the dead, but the living they leave behind” who face the problems of malnutrition, finding work, and just fighting to stay alive without parents or relatives (Schoofs).

Encarta Encyclopedia

The AIDS epidemic has left behind millions of children and will abandon more each day until something is done to stop it.

“Many people balk at discussing the sexual practices of particular cultures because the issue is too sensitive—and, in Africa, too racially charged. Whites have caricatured African sexuality for centuries, casting black men as sexual beasts, and some whites still whisper that this is why HIV is running rampant among Africans. But such stereotypes miss the point, which is not the libido itself but the culture in which it finds expression. HIV spread through the American gay community because having anal sex with many partners was common, and the virus infiltrated the Thai army because soldiers routinely patronized prostitutes. In Bombay, where AIDS has exploded, slumlords demand payment in sex. I.V. drug use aside, male sexual privilege is what drives the epidemic” (Schoofs part 5).

In a male-dominated society where promiscuity is the norm, the transfer of AIDS is abundant. Sex is rarely discussed and the woman is there solely for the man’s pleasure and for reproductive purposes; she has no say of her own. Many married men have girlfriends on the side or go to prostitutes for sex while the wife stays at home and cares for the children, cooks, and keeps house. Often the wife is infected because her husband has slept with an infected person. If a woman dares to ask her husband to wear a condom she is thought to have been unfaithful. Men have sex with as many women as they want and rarely use protection because they “…can’t eat a sweet in its wrapper” (Schoofs). Women who request that the male wear a condom are frequently yelled at and beaten for accusing the man of being dirty. Some who do agree to wear a condom have “a tricky way” of removing them during intercourse (Schoofs part 6). Prostitution in Africa is everywhere. Since there are so few jobs, women often turn to prostitution as a means of making money to help support them and feed their children. “Like women elsewhere, African women are stultified by circumstances largely beyond their control…which include sexually transmitted infections, sometimes associated with ‘dry sex’ practices, and myths touting sex with a virgin as a cure for male HIV infection” (Rankin 1543).

Handed down from generation to generation, men are taught at a very early age that they have control over the women. Young boys treat their mothers and sisters as possessions rather than as humans because they learn this behavior by watching their fathers. African society has taught males that they can have anything they want, and the women are taught to do as they are told.

A cultural sex practice used centuries ago that is still popular today is that of dry sex. Although dry sex is “very painful,” women continue to engage in it because “African husbands enjoy sex with a dry vagina” (Schoofs part 5). African men believe that if the woman’s vagina is wet, she has been unfaithful but if it is dry then she has remained true. “Ground herbs from the Mugugudhu tree are mixed with a pinch of sand-colored powder and water, wrapped in a bit of nylon stocking, and inserted into the vagina for 10 to 15 minutes. The herbs swell the soft tissues of the vagina, make it hot, and dry it out” (Schoofs). The swelling makes the man feel bigger and more dominant while he is inside of the woman, and therefore gives him more control. “Research shows that dry sex cases vaginal lacerations and suppresses the vagina’s natural bacteria, both of which increase the likelihood of HIV infection” (Schoofs). With the cultural belief that males are the superior beings and can do as they please, the AIDS virus continues to spread and threaten the population.

     The AIDS epidemic has spread throughout the continent and continues to do so because society does not allow women to take control of their bodies and protect them. Women risk becoming infected because they are forced to have sex with any male who wishes to do so, “this stark inequality ‘is part of our culture,’ Mhlolo says, ‘and our culture is part of why HIV is spreading’” (Schoofs part 5).

The socioeconomic status of Africans plays a large part in the spread of AIDS and the life span of an infected person. Those who have higher status are less likely to contract the virus because they are more educated and have better access to clinics where they can get condoms. Likewise, those who live impoverished lives are subject to contracting AIDS because they are either unaware of the fact that condoms can help protect them, or do not have access or money to obtain them. Those poverty-stricken victims have much shorter life spans than those who are wealthier because the people who are better off financially have access to and can afford medical treatment. “Life expectancy in more than a dozen African countries ‘will soon be 17 years shorter because of AIDS-47 years instead of 64,’ says Callisto Madavo, the World Bank's vice president for Africa. HIV ‘is quite literally robbing Africa of a quarter of our lives’” (Schoofs part 1). With already weak immune systems caused by other illnesses, poverty, and a lack of health care, once a person falls victim to the AIDS virus they have very little time to live. This is the case because those infected in Africa usually already have or are susceptible to other illnesses which will only lower their white blood cell count and cause them to perish sooner than if they had the proper medical care.

“The statistics about HIV/AIDS in Africa can be mind-numbing: In some countries more than a quarter of the population is infected; the number of AIDS orphans on the continent exceeds 12 million; and in sub-Saharan Africa, the tally of deaths from AIDS is expected to climb from the current 5,000 per day to 13,000 per day by 2010” (U.S. Catholic). The lack of education, orphans who will most likely never rise above poverty level, and cultural and societal beliefs all contribute to the spread of AIDS throughout the African continent. “Yet AIDS is not merely a tale of despair. Increasingly, Africans are banding together- usually with meager resources-to care for their sick, raise their orphans, and prevent the virus from claiming more of their loved ones. Their efforts offer hope. For while a crisis of this magnitude can disintegrate society, it can also unify it. ‘To solve HIV you must involve yourself: your attitudes and behavior and beliefs. It touches upon the most fundamental social and cultural things-procreation and death.’ AIDS is driving a new candor about sex-as well as new efforts to control it, through virginity testing and campaigns that advocate sticking to one partner. And slowly, fitfully, it is also giving women more power. The death toll is scaring women into saying no to sex or insisting on condoms” (Schoofs part 1). Until the barrier can be broken and discussing sex and the use of condoms is no longer taboo, silence will continue to fuel this already raging fire. While the African culture is moving in the right direction to help control AIDS, it will take nothing short of a cure to rid the continent of this disastrous disease that plagues so many innocent people.

Works Cited:

“AIDS Leaves Millions of Orphans in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Encarta Encyclopedia. Dec.
1999.     CD-ROM.

Beals, Gregory, and Christopher Dickey. “Fighting the Disease: What Can Be Done.”
Newsweek 17 Jan. 2000: 38.

Carey, John. “Africa: The High Price of Denial.” Business Week 19 Feb. 2001: 69.

“A Cause That Crosses the Color Line.” Newsweek 17 Jan. 2000: 49.

DeSalle, Rob, ed. Epidemic! The World of Infectious Disease. New York: The New
Press, 1999.

“A Disease Without Borders.” U.S.Catholic Oct. 2000: 11.

Halweil, Brian. “HIV/AIDS Pandemic Hits Africa Hardest.” Vital Signs 2000: The
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Henderson, CW. “Worldwatch Says AIDS Devestating (sic) African Demographics.”
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Hirsh, Michael, et al. “Mapping the AIDS Epidemic’s Hot Zone.” Newsweek 17 Jan.
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“HIV Infections Decrease in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Nation’s Health Dec. 2000: 15.

Kaheru, Simon, et al. “10 Million Orphans.” Newsweek 17 Jan. 2000: 42-45.

“The Plague Years.” Editorial. Newsweek 17 Jan. 2000: 32-36.

Rankin, William, and Charles Wilson. “African Women with HIV.” British Medical
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Schoofs, Mark. “Part 1: The Virus Creates a Generation of Orphans.” AIDS: The Agony
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Schoofs, Mark. “Part 5: Death and the Second Sex.” AIDS: The Agony of Africa.
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<http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/9948/schoofs.shtml>.



Schoofs, Mark. “Part 6: Ending the Epidemic.” AIDS: The Agony of Africa. 15 Dec.
1999. The XIII International AIDS Conference. 1 March 2001
<http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/9950/schoofs.shtml>.

Works Cited


AIDS Leaves Millions of Orphans in Sub-Saharan Africa.” Encarta Encyclopedia. Dec.
1999. CD-ROM.

Carey, John. “Africa: The High Price of Denial.” Business Week 19 Feb. 2001: 69.

DeSalle, Rob, ed. Epidemic! The World of Infectious Disease. New York: The New
Press, 1999.

“A Disease Without Borders.” U.S.Catholic Oct. 2000: 11.

Kaheru, Simon, et al. “10 Million Orphans.” Newsweek 17 Jan. 2000: 42-45.

Rankin, William, and Charles Wilson. “African Women with HIV.” British Medical
Journal 321 (2000): 1543.

Schoofs, Mark. “Part 1: The Virus Creates a Generation of Orphans.” AIDS: The Agony
of Africa. 3 Nov. 1999. The XIII International AIDS Conference. 1 March 2001 <http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/9944/schoofs.shtml>.

Schoofs, Mark. “Part 5: Death and the Second Sex.” AIDS: The Agony of Africa.
1 Dec. 1999. The XIII International AIDS Conference. 1 March 2001
<http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/9948/schoofs.shtml>.

Schoofs, Mark. “Part 6: Ending the Epidemic.” AIDS: The Agony of Africa. 15 Dec.
1999. The XIII International AIDS Conference. 1 March 2001
<http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/9950/schoofs.shtml>.



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