Though the incidence of HIV is in decline because of the impact of antiretroviral therapy(ART) in some countries, the numbers are still significant. As of 2010, HIV/AIDS was the 5th cause of global burden. The burden of HIV increased by 354%. In 2010, HIV/AIDS was the leading cause of DALY (sum of years lived with disability) in Eastern and Southern Africa, Central Africa, etc. In twenty six (26) countries, HIV/AIDS is ranked within the top five causes of burden.(2) As of 2011, we still have 2.5 million people still getting infected daily and 1.7 million people dying from AIDS related causes. Currently, we have about 34 million people living with HIV. (1) From the data, described above, this disease affects a huge number of the population and cuts across socioeconomic, cultural, and country boundaries. It is the 5th leading cause of DALY in Africa and as such it affects each country’s human resources and is therefore critical to combat for the development of each country and the continent as a whole. Just think, humans are involved in every facet of a country’s development and when you have sick humans who are unable or too weak or dead to work/ create/innovate, you have a country that is on a steady decline to its extinction.
To combat this disease in Africa, we will need a mixture of strategies involving gender equality, empowerment of women, getting men involved as willing participants in the prevention and care. Education, ART, protection will be some of the tools that will be used in combating this disease. Everyone will have to be on board from the clinicians to the recognized and accepted power brokers within the society. In some communities in which traditional doctors and medicine are seen as superior, there might be a need to involve a form of medical pluralism in which accepted clinical practices work vis a vis traditional medicine to get the support of these communities. While in other countries or communities, discourse might need to be started in which alternative means of protection beyond abstinence is shared.
To achieve this goal of combating HIV/AIDS in Africa, we will need to achieve certain sub goals. These sub goals will involve prevention and care and they are namely:
a)Create awareness of the disease, its spread and its effect in countries. This will involve education and will combat misinformation, myths and disinformation about the disease. For example, in previous years in South Africa, it was believed that having sex with a virgin or little child will cure AIDS. We need education in similar countries that might have the wrong information about the infection, spread or cure of HIV/AIDS.(3)
b)Promote empowerment of women, so that women understand that they have a voice in sexual negotiations. This empowerment should also include commercial sexual workers who will understand that they can refuse to have unprotected sex.
c)Train health care workers and clinicians in the tools necessary to combat the disease.
d) Have condoms and other tools for protection provided either free of charge or make the cost inexpensive, so it accessible to all. This will also include ART.
e)Create welcoming communities, so that those that are infected and their loved ones’ do not feel ostracized or alone.
Africa is a huge continent with different social, economic and cultural climate. In countries in which the health sector is very involved in combating HIV/AIDS, this goal is very achievable. Some of these countries are South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana etc. (4) But, in other countries, for example, heavily Islamic countries that have an extremely strong ‘moral’ compass there might be a need for a stronger push. Combatting HIV/AIDS in these countries will involve addressing the issue of sex and taking off the blinders that many will prefer to have about sexual relations and other activities of the country. But, yes, this goal is achievable in Africa.
- Report Shows A Big Drop in New HIV Infections (voanews.com)
- United Nations Targets 15 Million On HIV Antiretroviral Treatment By 2015 (ontopmag.com)
- Growing share of HIV/AIDS burden shifts to changing group of regions (eurekalert.org)
- Could concentrated HIV epidemics make AIDS unbeatable? (dnaindia.com)
- The State of the Aids Epidemic Today (brighthub.com)
- Lordina Launches 2013 World AIDS Day with a call to action (modernghana.com)
- Disease burden hindering Africa’s MDG attainment (times.co.zm)
- Oliver Mtukudzi; “I’m HIV-“ (profarmsmusic.wordpress.com)