The causes of high HIV/AIDS rates in Southern Africa and their economic effects

Human Immunodeficiency Virus, infamously known worldwide as HIV, is a communicable disease that causes the progressive failure of the immune system within human beings. The developed form of HIV, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, known as HIV/AIDS, and like its less harmful counterpart, it is currently an incurable disease. There is much speculation to how HIV came into existence, but of what is know, there are four major modes of transmission: sexual intercourse (unsafe sex), breast milk, contaminated needles and perinatal transmission. In contrast to popular belief, HIV/AIDS does not kill, however it is a contributing factor.

The failure of the immune system allows curable diseases to become lethal, known as opportunistic infections. Fortunately, there are several preventative measures one can take, such as the use of contraception, celibacy, proper education and honesty in a relationship. These prove to the best solution to the problem of HIV, but for those who have already contracted the disease, several Pharmaceutical companies have developed ARV’s(Anti retro virals). These cocktail of drugs slow down the development of HIV into AIDS, and with these a person can survive for over 20 years.

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HIV/AIDS is a pandemic, but of all the affected regions globally, Southern Africa is heavily affected, with countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe having a life expectancy of 39 and 47. 6 years respectively. The main causes of the rapid infection rate in Southern Africa are the cultural, religious and behavioural obstacles faced. Many Africans believed that HIV was a myth created by the Western World as a device to keep the entire continent in poverty, and as such, many did not relent in their sexual activities, and only relented once they were visibly ill, by that time developed AIDS.

With little education on HIV transmissions, infection rates still continue to spread, with breast milk still being a route to infection. Another cause of the rapid infection rate is the low female status and structure of the economy. Many woman are raped, which is an involuntary transmission, but some woman are forced into prostitution as a way to quickly raise finance. It is here that the cycle of deprivation is relevant. If an individual contracts HIV, he or she can only work for few years until they are physically confined to basic tasks.

The illness causes an immediate lack of income, as they cannot work and then becomes socially excluded, and eventually forgotten (it is a taboo in most countries to speak of HIV in public and there is stigma attached to those who are infected). With no income, meaning no money for ARV’s (if they are that they exist) they most likely die within a few years of contraction of the disease, most likely being claimed by pneumonia or tuberculosis. The cycle of deprivation causes a huge strain on the economy.

Without physically able workers available to work, the economy suffers, as tax isn’t paid, and trade, which is essentially carried by workers, slows down dramatically. Palliative care and preventative care, are answers to the growing problem of HIV, but answer it in two different ways. Preventative care attempts to stop people from getting HIV in the first place, while palliative care is an optional treatment which makes life pleasant and palatable for people who already have the disease. Already. Preventative care seems like the most effective option.

All that is needed, is awareness, which is a big problem in Africa due to poor infrastructure, (this is currently being combatted by Anti Aids Clubs) contraception and motivation to have sex safely. All this reduces the chance of getting the disease, with condoms being sold worldwide. On the other hand, Palliative Care is much more expensive, when the finance is combined with cost of ARV’s. ARV’s typically cost around $10. 000 a year, and the cost of having round the clock care will be expensive too.

This doesn’t guarantee a chance of survival; however it may allow people to live a normal life, as well as extending their life span for a while. As of a few weeks ago, The EU are making a deal with the Indian Government that actually prevents them mass producing generic ARV’s, with the idea that they are doing harm to the people of Africa. However, these generic drugs actually reduce the price of ARV’s significantly in Southern Africa, from a massive R10,000 to a low R150 a month.

So in terms of effectiveness of both palliative and preventative care, preventative care would be the better option. Approximately 1. 85 million died last year of HIV,( this is an estimation as due to cultural factors(shame), many people do not get tested and there many unconfirmed sufferers), and this is WITH the inclusion of cheap, generic ARV’s, so without the drugs at a cheap, this death toll regarding HIV/AIDS is likely to rise exponentially. The best option for the future is to strongly advertise and educate the people of Southern Africa about contraception and celibacy.

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