No MoneyThe problem is so basic but so difficult to remedy. There simply is not enough money to fight the disease. Prevention efforts in the western world centers around education, condom use and testing and counseling. And statistics show that while HIV transmission has not been eradicated, these measures have helped dramatically. Unfortunately, for those living in Sub-Sahara Africa, the availability of these important prevention techniques are rare. Without HIV education, the people of Africa continue to lack the tools necessary to change behaviors and halt the spread of the disease.
Without condoms, heterosexual transmission continues to soar. Consider this. In some African nations, 1 in 3 adults are infected with HIV. The majority of sexual contact is unprotected, making transmission more likely and more widespread.
And finally, widespread testing and counseling is just not available. Of the 24 million or so with HIV, a large number of them do not know they are infected. Because of this, heterosexual contact becomes a major transmission route of young adults in Africa. The combination of not knowing their HIV status and the lack of available condoms, allows unprotected sexual transmission to continue.
To combat this lack of funds, the United Nations is urging developed countries to fund the war on HIV. Experts place the cost of containing the epidemic to be approximately $4 billion.
No MedicationsIn the western world, the fight against HIV has been bolstered by the emergence of HIV medications. Unfortunately, the lack of available health care dollars in the countries hardest hit has made medications scarce in those regions. Medications have be proven to slow the progression of HIV infection to AIDS, thus allowing people to live longer, more productive lives. Without the benefit of these medications, the people of Africa continue to fall victim to AIDS at alarming rates.
Cultural DifferencesA big barrier to containing the HIV virus is cultural differences that make fighting the disease that much more difficult. In some African populations, multiple sexual partners are expected as part of cultural expression. This increases the risk of transmission because of the shear number of sexual contacts, most of them between parties who are unaware one or both of them is HIV infected.
ComplacencyIn Africa alone, more than 11 million people have died as a result of AIDS. Yet, South African President Thabo Mbeki denounces HIV as the cause of AIDS, saying that nothing has been proven that links the two. Instead, Mbeki is representative of a growing number of people that feel HIV drugs themselves may be the cause of AIDS. This stance has made it more difficult to educate the general population on the importance of medicines in fighting HIV and AIDS.
Oddly enough, the success of HIV medications is also contributing in a small part to the African epidemic. Complacency has led to a rise in unprotected sex, both heterosexual and among gay men. People have seen the success of medications and feel that if infected, a few pills is not too large a price to pay for spontaneity. This state of mind can and will have huge ramifications.
So the epidemic rages on. Some experts expect two thirds of the Sub-Sahara population will eventually be wiped out by AIDS. A sobering thought indeed. While there have been a few successes in the region, AIDS continues its devastating attack on a population, a culture, and a people. Changes have to be made soon while there is still time.