HIV/AIDS in Sub Saharan Africa

By Antonio Berrones

What is HIV/AIDS?

HIV(Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a retrovirus that causes AIDS(Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). HIV/AIDS affects cells in the immune system, such as T-cells. This essentially causes the immune system to turn on itself. This causes the body to be more open to disease and infection. It is transmitted via bodily fluids.

In the picture below the green is the HIV retrovirus.

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Facts on HIV/AIDS

  • about 80% of all children who are orphaned because of AIDS, are from Sub Saharan Africa
  • this region in Africa is the most affected by HIV/AIDS than anywhere else on the planet
  • approximately 22.9 million people are infected with HIV in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA)
  • this has caused 1.2 million deaths from AIDS in SSA
  • in SSA, the life expectancy has lowered to 54.4 years, some are less than 49 years
  • of all the HIV-positive children in the world, 91% of them live in Africa
  • unfortunately, only 5 out of 10 million HIV-positive parents receive anti-retroviral treatment
  • a pregnant woman who is already infected, has a 20-45% chance that her infant will get the virus
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How Does It Impact the People In Sub Saharan Africa?

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HIV/AIDS impacts people in Sub Saharan Africa by affecting the health sector, children and the economy. HIV/AIDS affects the health sector by demanding many healthcare workers to help a large amount of patients. Already in African hospitals, almost half of the operating beds are taken up by patients who are there because of HIV-related problems. Also, HIV-positive patients usually stay in the hospital for up to four times longer than others. All these reasons and more are putting strain on hospitals and the few medical professionals. AIDS especially affects children by orphaning them at very young ages. With their parents ill, it becomes increasingly harder for them to attain food, money, housing and clothing. These children go through intense trauma with losing their parents and family, and the poor environment only makes it worse. This virus also impacts the economy as well. The virus makes the potential workforce ill and the government can't earn money. AIDS/HIV only adds to the problems that certain governments in this region face. It has even been estimated that because of this disease, the GDP has decreased 1.5% in the most affected countries. As you can see, HIV/AIDS has a major impact in Sub Saharan Africa, and not in a positive way. It causes death and sickness as well as stress on the health sector, economy and the children.

The Future

The future of AIDS/HIV in Africa is widely unknown. But, the future can be potentially promising. This can only happen if Africa, as well as other foreign countries, work together to eliminate the virus. One crucial part in this is trying to stop further infection. But this problem is more complex, it is intertwined with other problems, like poverty and poor infrastructure. In order to stop AIDS/HIV, we need to improve the standard of living in Africa. But the future is still rich with opportunities. Advances in science and medicine are always happening, as time goes on the possibility of a cure becomes more real. Distribution of anti-retroviral treatment is being imporved as well as foreign aid. Progress is slowly being made. In 2011, there was a 25% reduction in new HIV infections in 22 countries. As you can see, it will take time to stop and eventually get rid of AIDS/HIV as easily as the common cold. But it will have to be a group effort. The future of HIV/AIDS does indeed look promising.