AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa
Women and Children in Southern Africa: The Effects of the AIDS Epidemic and A Potential Solution. This presentation started out by giving everyone who attended an AIDS symbol pin made out of tiny beads that were handmade by South African women.
Then of course there were the shocking statistics. I have never heard them broken down like this before. Since the start of the pandemic, 11.5 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa have died of AIDS. That is equivalent to the combined populations of the cities of New York and Los Angeles. Twenty-five percent of these deaths were among children. Eighty-three percent (83 percent) of AIDS deaths worldwide are in this region, which only accounts for one-tenth of the world's population. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to an estimated two-thirds of the 34 million people currently living with HIV/AIDS. In 1998, seven out of ten new infections occured in this region. Nine out of every ten infected children in the world are from Sub-Saharan Africa.
After hearing these statistics the audience wanted to know why AIDS is so prominent in Sub-Saharan Africa? People in Sub-Saharan Africa are infected predominantly with an aggressive form of HIV, Subtype C. The strain is more easily transmitted, causes sickness faster, and deaths sooner. Nursing mothers sometimes fear that if they are not breast feeding then someone will think she has HIV/AIDS, therefore she breast feeds. The life expectancy for this region averages 47 and is expected by the year 2010 to average 38 years. Then the presenters went on to say that there is stigma in Sub-Saharan Africa just like we have here.
Secure The Future is an initiative in partnership with the African nations of Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland to find sustainable and relevant solutions for the management of HIV/AIDS in women and children, and provide resources to improve community education and patient support. Sub-Saharan Africa is hardest hit so this initiative is only a first step to help alleviate the AIDS crisis in this region.
There are three components to the program. In the first, a newly created HIV Research Institute will provide grants to facilitate medical research focusing specifically on women and children with AIDS in the 5 countries. The second component is the Community Outreach and Education Fund. This component will issue grants to help already overburdened non-governmental organizations and community based organizations meet the demands for services, including orphan and home-based care. The third component is in the form of grants to expand capacity building and education initiatives.
A pledge of 100 million dollars over the next five years was made by Bristol-Myers Squibb and others to help these five nations find sustainable solutions for women, children and communities suffering from the AIDS epidemic. It sounds like a lot of money but it's not nearly enough.
Africa Needs Our Help
I left this presentation with a better awareness of HIV and AIDS in Africa and also sadness especially for all the babies and children who are suffering or orphaned. I really hope other drug companies will jump on the band wagon with Bristol-Myers Squibb because Africa really needs our help.
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