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The AIDS Epidemic: The Price of Death.

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Caroline Perez 4/22/02 World History The AIDS Epidemic: The Price of Death In 1981 a new and dangerous disease began to spread throughout the world. This sexually transmitted disease would later become known as AIDS. AIDS is an acronym for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, a disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This virus attacks and weakens the immune system, which makes the body susceptible to infections and diseases. AIDS can affect anyone who has had sex with an infected individual (vaginal, oral, and anal) or shared contaminated needles, syringes, or blood products. It can pass to an unborn child by means of breast-feeding. The diseases a person might contract from the weakened immune system are called opportunistic infections because they take advantage of the body's damaged line of defense. Most researchers believe that the virus began in Africa, where most AIDS cases currently exist. While there are drugs on the market aimed at suppressing the disease, these drugs are manufactured and sold at exceedingly high prices, and most Africans cannot afford to pay for the treatments. It is because of this that 28.1 million Africans now live with the HIV virus, making the epidemic in Africa one of the worst to have in human history (UNAIDS/WHO "AIDS Epidemic Update...). Nelson Mandela, a widely known AIDS awareness supporter once stated, "AIDS kills those on whom society relies on to grow crops, work in the mines and factories, run the schools and hospitals, and govern the countries. ...read more.


These poor economic conditions lead to the spread of AIDS and the spread of AIDS worsens the economic climate of Africa. This is a never ending cycle that has left three-fourths of the African population trying to survive on less then two dollars a day. An economic crisis, which started in the 1980s, caused several African governments to reduce funding for health services. Since Africa has a low status in the world economy, this leads to major problems in trying to slow down the spread of AIDS, because richer countries are not largely concerned with what occurs in Africa. If businesses do not involve themselves in the intervention and prevention programs and, more importantly help make drugs more accessible, sub-Saharan Africa will be further marginalized in the expanding global economy. One of the most rapidly occurring problems is mother to child transmission of the virus. Women are more frequent victims of this sexually transmitted disease, then are men. Most of the women contract the disease from prostitution, a money-earning job that has gained popularity since the decline of the African economy. It has also been proven that HIV is passed with greater ease from men to women; but the men who do have HIV often believe that having sexual intercourse with a virgin will eliminate the disease from his body. In Zimbabwe, the rate of new infection is 6 times greater in girl's ages 15 to 19 then of boys the same age. ...read more.


Thanks to the government programs, the situation appears to be stabilizing. Yet the epidemic is in no way defeated, there is still a great need for better provision of condoms and other safe sex items, not to mention a need to lower drug prices and make them more available to the poor. In 1997, only $650 million was spent on all African AIDS programs (Russel, Sabin). There is still a need for more money if research is to be done for new antiretroviral drugs. The only reliable way to stop the spread of AIDS is to decrease the high rate of unprotected sex, but unfortunately African nations are far from doing so. In conclusion, high costs for reverse transcriptase inhibitors and protease inhibitors, the two major classes of AIDS drugs on the market, have worsened the problems in sub-Saharan Africa. These include a dangerously recessive economy, frequent mother to child transmissions, and a potentially politically damaging effect on education. Having better access to antiretroviral drugs would allow most of these problems to be solved eventually. Some African countries have implemented programs to help give their citizens access to AIDS drugs and their success has been proven in a declining infection rate. Even so, sixty percent of the AIDS infected world population resides in sub-Saharan Africa, clearly showing that much more needs to be done. If something is not done, Africa will eventually develop into an economic, social, and political disaster. It will fall further behind the world and, eventually not be able to be pulled back up. 2 ...read more.

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