AIDS in Africa

AIDS in Africa

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     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 in
Sub-Saharan Africa in 1998 were infected with HIV. (AIDS,1991) This is due to a
lack 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 40
million people contracted the disease in 1980's and nearly 12 million of them
have died in Africa.

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(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 can’t 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
      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.

Works Cited

Flanders, Stephen A. AIDS , Facts on File, New York; 1991

Greenberg, Lorna. AIDS, understanding the epidemic,MN; Life Skills education
     Inc. 1994

Haney, Daniel Q. Scientist: AIDS came from Chimps, Atlanta Journal and and
     constitution, GA,1999.

Mckenzie, Nancy F. The AIDS reader, US; A meridian Book,1991

Murphy, Dean E. African’s Silent Shame, CA; Los Angeles Times, 1998

Aids in Africa A Unaids fact sheet, November 30, Johannesburg, Dec,1999
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