HIV/ AIDS is a leading cause of death and a major health concern in many countries in Africa. Many people have lost their loved ones to this virus. AIDS has been the cause of the loss of young and able youth that would have otherwise helped alleviate poverty in Africa. Many have been left orphans, widows and widower, courtesy of AIDS. In fact, it seems the rate of spread of AIDS is faster now more than ever.
Prevalence of AIDS in Africa
Africa is home to about 15.2% of the world’s population, two-thirds of which have contracted HIV/AIDS and 15 million of which have already succumbed to death. The sub-Saharan Africa has accounted for about 70% of all deaths due to AIDS while about 69% of Africa’s population is living with HIV according to research done in 2011.
AIDS has raised the mortality rate and lowered the life expectancy of adults aged between 20 to 49 by 20 years! The life expectancy in some areas is as low as 35 years. It is worth noting that culture has played a significant role in the spread of HIV in Africa. It is for this reason that most North African and Horn of Africa countries have recorded lower prevalence rates because they normally get involved in fewer high-risk cultural practices. Countries in the southern parts of Africa have been worst affected by AIDS.
According to research done in 2011, HIV has affected at least 10 % of the population in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.
Factors contributing to the Rapid spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Some of the main factors leading to a rapid spread of HIV/AIDS include:
Cultural Factors: factors such as polygamy, FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and wife inheritance have fueled the rate at which HIV is spreading in many countries of the Sub-Saharan Africa.
Poverty: most African countries have citizens living below the poverty line, with a household earning less than $1 per day. This makes people do anything to make ends meet, including engaging in promiscuous and prostitution for money.
Illiteracy: most people living in Africa are unaware of the disease, its causes, and factors contributing to the spread of AIDS. They, therefore, continue practices that lead to further spread of the virus.
Drug and Alcohol Use: Drug abuse is common in many youths in Africa. According to research, substance abuse impairs judgement, and hence users are at risk of engaging in behavior that places them at a high risk of HIV/AIDS infection.
HIV/AIDS Stigma: the stigma of people living with the disease causes people to avoid HIV testing though the tests are free in many countries in Africa. Also, those who test positive do not find the courage to go for drugs to boost their immunity.
There is no cure for HIV and AIDS. However, medical researchers in collaboration with global health agencies are working to come up treatment to prolong the life span of the affected people. The most common treatment measure for HIV/AIDS includes the use of antiretroviral drugs.
Most recently, a new drug called Dolutegravir(DTG) was launched, by UNITAID in conjunction with various countries affected. However, the use of DTG is limited to high- economic countries and whose patients have developed resistance to the antiretroviral drugs and experience adverse side effects after using them. DTG is easier to use as compared to other formulations as it only requires the patient to take one tablet daily.
Some countries like Kenya have been at the forefront in participation of testing of the new HIV/AIDS drugs.
Sterilizing cure: This is a type of remedy where all the virus is destroyed from the patient’s body even the hidden ones. There is only one successful case of sterilizing treatment that happened on a Berlin patient in 2008.
Functional cure: This is a cure that represses the amount of virus on the patient’s body to levels that cannot be sensed or cause illness. There are few people believed to have been functionally cured, however, the virus had been reported to re-emerge after some time.Finally, there is a lot of research being done on HIV vaccine, with some experiments indicating positive outcomes. Nevertheless, a vaccine would only ensure partial treatment and would require combination with other therapies.
Measures being taken to control AIDS
Various programs and agencies are put in place around the world to create awareness about HIV so that everyone takes it as a personal initiative to protect themselves accordingly.
Also, the subject of abstinence is always being campaigned for through media and programs put in place by the responsible agencies to encourage us to adopt a healthy lifestyle through abstaining, being faithful to one’s partner and using condoms at all times.For those who have already been tested positive, start the medication immediately to control the virus from damaging your immune system and possible transmission to other people.
Are the systems put in place enough to curb HIV?