Why HIV, AIDS Has Spread So Rapidly in Sub-Saharan Africa?

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Introduction

HIV/AIDS is the number one killer disease in Africa today followed by malaria. The mid and late 1980’s saw the first cases and wide spread of the disease in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected by this pandemic. Unlike the north where the cases reported are fewer and the disease has not killed many, Sub-Saharan Africans and their governments face a major challenge in their attempt to combat the disease and curtail its spread.

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This paper seeks to look into the issue regarding the spread of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. The objective, therefore, of this paper is to outline and explain further the factors that have led to the spread of the disease in the continent. It is also the objective of the study, based on some research, to give the possible recommendations to these factors so as to curb further spread and possibly curtail the spread of the disease to its totality in Sub-Saharan Africa. This will be done in the conclusion.

Factors leading to the spread of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa

The spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa is increasing at a rate that is unimaginable. In South Africa, 30% of the youth are said to be either HIV positive or are suffering from full blown AIDS (Baldwin; pp 13). One major factor that is attributed to fueling the spread of the disease is high levels of poverty. The poverty levels in the continent are high and this has had some adverse effects of the youth and to some extent resulting to the spread of HIV/AIDS. One of the major effects of poverty is the lack of food and even if they get the food they lack a healthy/balanced diet. This poor nutrition weakens the body’s immune system.

A weak immune system makes an individual susceptible to many other diseases that attack the body as a result of HIV/AIDS (Baldwin; pp 56). The high cost of treatment for patients suffering from the disease also affects the low income earners, which is a wide majority, in Sub-Saharan Africa. Since the people have little or no access to the unti-retroviral drugs, they end up being affected more b the disease. Another impact of poverty is the lack of employment faced by the youth. 60% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa comprises of the youth. Half of this population is unemployed. This implies that 30% of the population in Sub-Saharan is unemployed.

As a result, the youth have sought other ways and means of making money so as to meet their cost of living. Unfortunately, some of the means resulted to lead to an increase in the spread of HIV/AIDS. Behaviors such as prostitution expose one and the society at large to a high chance of infection. Many young women engage in commercial sex with multiple male clients or friends for financial support. Of course if many of them would have better sources of income, they would not engage in this act. This has increased their chances of acquiring the disease and has also led to a major spread of the disease in the countries of this part of the continent.

Someone once said that “if you think education is expensive, try ignorance!” With the spread of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, I have come to accept this statement as true. Another factor fueling the spread of HIV/AIDS in the continent is ignorance and lack of basic information. A few statistics will be pointed out to explain this point. The rate of infected patients in East Africa had an average drop of 10 % in the early to late 90’s (Christine; pp 42).

The new millennium has seen another drop in the number of infected patients in the same region. South Africa on the other hand, has had continued increase in the number of infected patients over the years and is in record as the second most affected country in the world in as far as the disease is concerned. The question then is, why the difference? The reason for this is clear and simple. In the 90’s, many of the East African countries declared the disease a national disaster and embarked in methods of controlling the disease. One of the methods adopted in the region is the ABC method. In this method, people are advised on ways of preventing the disease.

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One of the ways is by Abstaining (hence the A). This method is mainly taught to students in schools. They are advised to wait for a proper time on when they can engage in sexual activities. Campaigns have also been introduced to this effect. The other preventive method is by being faithful (B). This is emphasized mainly to married couples and people who have partners. This is because there is a higher risk and chance of getting the disease from multiple partners than when a couple remains faithful to each other.

The final preventive measure is by use of a condom (C). This is stressed for those who feel they cannot adhere to the two measures given above. It reduces the chances of one contracting the disease. The case is different in South Africa. Unlike the East where campaigns against AIDS are made public and televised, the South does not allow this. Education was introduced but this alone cannot help the masses in fighting this disease.

Another great fuel of the disease is the African taboos and cultures. Many of the cultures practiced in Sub-Saharan Africa play a great role in fueling the spread of this disease. A look in East Africa will shed some light on this. The people of Western Kenya have carried out the practice of wife inheritance in the family for many years. In the yester years this might have had no great effects in the spread of AIDS as the disease was not rampant then. Today, the risk is too high. Many of the people in the rural areas who still carry out this practice are not aware of their status. A close look will show that it is the men who are mainly the carriers of this disease. It is still the men who inherit the wives leading to the spread of the disease. Another practice in Africa is that of polygamy. This implies that one person has many partners. Again, the chances of spreading the disease are high.

Many people due to lack of knowledge and information (ignorance) are not aware of their status. They therefore end up spreading the disease to many others that they are in contact with. Another cause with regards to the culture is that of many Sub-Saharan Africa nations aping the Western world cultures and practices. This is the main reason why North Africa is least affected by the disease. Unlike the people from Sub-Saharan Africa, the people from the north stick to their practices and cultures.

Many of them practice Islam and the religion does not allow some of the practices that lead to infidelity which is the main cause of the disease. Man Sub-Saharan nations have adopted the Western ways of living and to some extent misinterpret what they see on the television programmes engaging in activities that might lead to the spread of HIV/AIDS. Some of the people also belief that the disease is a punishment from God for those who are promiscuous.

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The young people in the region have also acquired a tendency of engaging in many social ills. Many young people in the region today engage in activities such as drug and alcohol abuse. Prostitution had been mentioned earlier but this was as a result of the high poverty levels. With the increased number of both male and female youth engaging in these social ills, there is a high prevalence for the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Take an instance where a number of people both male and female are consuming drugs and alcohol. One of he effects of alcohol and drug abuse is that it clouds one’s judgment and makes people make decisions that they did not necessarily intend to make. One of the unintended judgments could be that of engaging in activities that can lead to the spread of AIDS, such as unprotected sex. The result might be pregnancy or even worse contracting the disease. This is the situation in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Lack of quality health care s another cause of the wide and rapid spread of the disease in the region. Many at times, people are injected with syringes that are not sterilized. If this was done to a patient who is HIV positive, then the syringe carries with it the virus. The next person to be injected might be HIV negative but since he/she is injected with an unsterilized needle, the person acquires the disease (Fredrick; pp 35).

Events of circumcision in the villages also contribute to the spread of the disease. Many of the materials used in the process are also not sterilized. Mother to child transmission during birth is also another cause. Due to the lack of quality health care, the delivery process might not be specialized and will have adverse effects to the mother and the child. Although this can be placed under poverty since it has many economic causes, it falls mainly on the quality of health care provided.

Migration also contributes to the spread of the disease in Sub-Saharan Africa. The search for jobs and better living conditions has led to the movement of people in Africa from one region to another. However, with this movement come the positive impacts and the negative impacts. Among the negative impacts is the spread of HIV/AIDS. The major towns and cities are the ones most affected by the disease ( Fredrick; pp 35). One such claim has been reported in Uganda.

The cities in Uganda have provided employment opportunities for many of the people seeking employment. Unfortunately, the cities are the dens of many of these social ills. Prostitution, drug and alcohol abuse are reported mainly in the cities. The people who have traveled from the rural areas seeking employment find themselves engaging in these social ills. They then travel back to visit their relatives in the rural areas and end up transmitting the disease in those areas. Another case reported in the region is that of young girls being promised employment in the urban centers and on arrival they end up engaging in commercial sex owing to the fact that the have no where else to turn to. These migrations have greatly contributed to the spread of the disease in the region.

Political instability is the cause of many evils happening in Africa today. Amongst the evils is the spread of HIV/AIDS. One of the reasons for this is that with the lack of a stable government, international funding from Western donor countries becomes difficult as many of them demand that a stable government should be in place for funding. This implies that the economic situation in the country will be tough and therefore the citizens will lack amenities such as quality health care. The militia groups in these countries have also been accused of raping the women and imprisoning them. This leads to the spread of the disease as either the women or the members of the militia groups may be infected by the disease.

Conclusion

What then can be done to control the spread of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa? From the factors laid down above, the possible solutions can also be put forward. One of the recommendations suggested is that the existing governments should try to provide jobs for the population both in the public and private sectors. By doing so, the people will engage in more productive and less risky jobs that will not fuel the spread of the disease.

Another recommendation is that the society should be provided with education to curtail the ignorance in as far as matters of the disease are concerned. With regards to the South African government, they should borrow a leaf from their East African counterparts, and provide civic education to all to curtail the spread of the disease. People should also be encouraged to know their status so as to prevent the spread of the disease.

Some of the taboos and cultures should be done away with. Some of these cultures are highly contributing to the spread of this disease. Erosion of culture and traditions is not acceptable in many communities and in fact it is not advocated for. However, what happens in instances where the upholding of the culture leads to the deaths of masses? Some of them e.g. wife inheritance should be done away with to salvage the situation.

The governments in these countries should also get their act together. When the leaders are fighting and scrambling for positions at the top, it is the citizens of the nation who suffer. The leaders in all these nations should first ensure that their countries are stable in as far as politics is concerned then let the citizens decide on whom they think is best suited to rule the nation.

All in all, HIV/AIDS is the number one killer disease in Africa and the world. It is upon the people to take this matter on their own hands and ensure that the spread of the disease is curtailed.

Work cited

Baldwin Thomas. AIDS: Is Africa Coming To An End. Britton Publishers. Illinois. Illinois University Press. 1999.

Christine Campbell. Spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Manchester. Manchester University Press. 2004.

Fredrick Simmone. AIDS in Africa. HIV/AIDS Global Report. 212th edition. Pp 35. 2007.

AIDS Epidemic Update Regional Summary-Sub Saharan Africa. UNAIDS, 2008.

Fact Sheet: AIDS Epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa.UNAIDS, 2006.

The African Regional World Report: The Health of the People. World Health Organization, 2006.

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Premium Papers. 2022. "Why HIV, AIDS Has Spread So Rapidly in Sub-Saharan Africa?" September 29, 2022. https://premium-papers.com/why-hiv-aids-has-spread-so-rapidly-in-sub-saharan-africa/.

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