AIDS – a terrible disease

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is one of today’s biggest problems. Every day thousands of people die by AIDS and thereby many children loose their parents. The epidemic is spreading fast and something has to be done if not even more people should die a premature death by AIDS, on of the biggest challenges of this century. Poverty is one part of the explanations why the epidemic has a so rapid spread in the Sub-Saharan Africa, where the epidemic is worst. Sub-Saharan Africa is a place with high poverty, shocking health system and many persons with untreated sexually transmitted infections.

Poverty doesn’t explain the difference in HIV rates between different countries, but poor people are often less informed of the epidemic and because of that less motivated to change their behaviour. Another part of the explanation is that in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa conflicts are common, both local, national and international. Conflicts involve military movements, which make the HIV spread even more, because the HIV prevalence is often high among military personnel.

The men in the military may infect women they meet when they are away fighting or they may get infected and later when they get home they infect their wives. In many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa gender relation often is cultural, like polygamous marriage and widow inheritance by close relatives. Male labour migrations, older men’s sexual exploitation of younger women and commercial sex are things that have big impacts on the spread of AIDS. The HIV epidemic took root in some countries earlier than in others and later it spread more and more throw the whole world.

The epidemic was first found in some African countries and in theUSA. From these areas the epidemic first spread to other African countries and to Europe, and later to South America and Asia. East Europe, the former Soviet Union and China are countries where the epidemic is relative new. One important factor behind the epidemics growth and spread is the public sector, the government. Western governments have organised societies with good health service and resources to manage crises. When the Western government at first found and learnt more about the HIV epidemic, they started a searching after methods to control it.

Homosexual and drug-injected persons, mostly men, were the first targets. HIV/AIDS hits particularly hard at poor families. Because the poor families already have a bad economy and the epidemic exacerbates the families living standard. The poor have big difficulties to handle the loss of an adult family member. And in many families more than one person has died or got infected by AIDS and that leaves many orphan children that need support and someone who can take care of them. In many of the worst affected countries, households live on very small incomes.

For a great number of affected households HIV/AIDS therefore leads to increasing poverty, deteriorating food security and children that have to leave school because they are needed at home. Many households feel the burden of HIV/AIDS long before someone in the household gets ill. Because the household might have to take care of orphans left by friends or relatives, and sometimes AIDS-sick relatives arrive for care. When the men in the households die they leave the women with an increased workload.

The women have to take on tasks their men used to do and at the same time as they have to try keeping up their normal domestic and other responsibilities. The best security for an AIDS-widow is sons who are old enough to claim inheritance of land and property from their father. But generally the widows are young with children who can only marginally, if at all, work in the farm or do other income-generating activities. Often when a man in a household has dies in AIDS the woman also is infected which after a while leaves many orphans.

By the end of 2000 studies showed that over 7 million children from 34 different countries had lost their mother or both of their parents. Studies done at the same time showed at by 2010 there will be at least the double of orphans compared with 2000. 90% of those children live I Sub-Saharan Africa, a region that should be hard affected even without AIDS. The orphans often get big problems with their health and welfare. They run a great risk of sexual abuse and child labour exploitation. Organisations have responded to the situation of the orphans by helping the orphans to keep up their health and by helping them so they can get an education.

Another effect of HIV/AIDS is a decline in the size of labour force. Especially premature death of large numbers of professionals, skilled workers and other experienced manpower at all levels, this have a growing impact on the quality of the workforce. A growing loss of professional workers also makes it more difficult to replace and train new staff. A specific source of stain is the low number of trained health staff. Death among health workers have increased for the last years, mainly because of AIDS. Many nurses in the worst effected countries are HIV positive.

The effects are probably worse on the country-side compared with in the towns, because on the country-side wards may have to close when they looses stuff. AIDS has a big impact on education. The main impact on the education system is teachers died by AIDS. Something like voluntary testing of teachers is nowhere organised. There are already many problems with the education system in Sub-Saharan Africa caused by AIDS and the problems will probably get worse. School have been closed because of teachers that have died in AIDS and at some places it has been impossible to fill the vacancy.

In other places where only a few teachers are left classroom has become overcrowded. There are some organisations working with informing teachers and the public about HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, this to prevent the spread of HIV. But unfortunately that is not enough to stop the spread of HIV, it needs much more hard work to stop the spread. Today the epidemic has reached a stage where adults die prematurely in increasing numbers. HIV/AIDS are an epidemic that no longer can be seen as a threat to the future development, it is already present.