AIDS in Africa

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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).

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