AIDS/AFRICA HIV and AIDS term paper 42398

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Africa is the world’s largest region affected by the HIV and AIDS virus. According to statistics, Aids in Africa killed an estimated 1.6 million people last year .An estimated population of 22.5 million people in Africa was living with HIV at the end of 2007 while an additional 1.7 million people were infected with the virus during that year. (

Today the AIDS crisis has become an epidemic of grave proportions in a region already struggling with war, poverty and famine.

The history of Aids in Africa originates in the 1930s when a strain of the virus known as Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) found in chimpanzee colonies in south-east Cameroon evolved into what is now known as HIV-1. The virus known as HIV2 transferred from monkeys found in Guinea-Bissau in the 1940s. Though AIDS originated in Africa and is said to have arrived in the continent in the 1970s it did not become an epidemic till the late 1980s when it spread mainly among sexual workers and people with blood transfusions. In the 1980s there was a lot of confusion in Africa about the disease and how it was transmitted. People did not much about the disease, its symptoms and how it spreads. By the time a patient was diagnosed with the disease they were already in the last stages and nothing could be done to help the patient. There were no preventive measures to make sure that minimal people were exposed to the disease. As a result infections and the disease spread like wildfire. Initially the Government too was ignorant about the disease and when it did wake up to the realities of AIDS it was swept under the carpet as a disease confined to sexual workers. The World Health Organization too was slow to respond to the disease .By the time the Governments in Africa started to adopt preventive measures it was already too late and the continent was in the midst of a widespread epidemic. By the 1990s HIV infection in the Sub Saharan African region was rocketing. Preventive measures which had been implemented were not very effective and the international community had still not responded to the grave situation in Africa. South Africa in particular was really badly hit with the highest number of infections in the region. In 1993 there were an estimated 9 million people infected in the sub-Saharan region out of a global total of 14 million In 1998 sub-Saharan Africa was home to 70% of people who became infected with HIV during the year, with an estimated one in seven of these new infections occurring in South Africa (

The majority of African nations lacked the resources and proper health infrastructure to give its people the proper treatment that they require to combat aids and increase life expectancy. As a result a vast majority of Africans still have to fight for the proper treatment. With a dearth of proper medical treatment AIDS continued to rise in Africa.

In the new millennium after considerable pressure from African Governments Five Foreign Companies agreed to provide Antiretrovirals Aid Treatment drugs at cheaper rates to African countries. This helped combat the bleak situation in Africa to some extent. Between 2003 and 2005 the number of people receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa increased more than eight-fold to 810 000 from 100 000 people. UNAIDS reported that in total around 17% of those in need of the life-saving drugs in sub-Saharan Africa were receiving them in 200687. (

Though the situation is still bleak and the number of infections and death from the virus are still alarming access to drugs has reduced the fear and changed social perceptions of people living with AIDS in Africa. Antiretrovirals drugs mean that contracting HIV is no longer a death sentence; more people are willing to be tested for the disease and speak openly about it. As Nelson Mandela said when announcing the death of his son from AIDS in 2005

"Let us give publicity to HIV/AIDS and not hide it, because [that is] the only way to make it appear like a normal illness" (

Poverty in Africa has had its fair share of influence in advancing AIDS in the region. The majority of nations which were hit by the disease were poor nations already struggling with War, famine and other natural disasters. They lacked neither the funds to launch preventive campaigns or public awareness campaigns to make people aware of the implications of the disease called AIDS and how to prevent it. Because these beleaguered nations were already so occupied dealing with other problems they were slow to respond to the threat of AIDS. By the time they developed their health infrastructure to deal with the disease it had already spread to epidemic proportions and claimed millions of lives. Most of the African nations needed Foreign Aid to implement awareness and prevention programs. Furthermore poverty stricken Aid infected nations in Africa found it very difficult to obtain proper drugs to reduce infection among its people as these drugs were very expensive and difficult to obtain. If these drugs were available earlier and distributed widely more people who lost their lives to AIDS would have been saved. The sad fact is that today even though these drugs are available in AIDS effected nations not everybody has access to them because they still remain expensive for poor people to afford.

Just as poverty has contributed to increasing AIDS and HIV infection, so has AIDS contributed to more poverty in Africa. AIDS causes households to dissolve as family’s breadwinners and people who are income providers become sick . As breadwinners die the rest of the family are faced with destitution. As parents die children find themselves homeless and destitute. Poverty leads to prostitution and accelerates the cycle of poverty and HIV furthermore. Families living with AID infected people now have to spend a greater part of their income caring for sick people. This means a cut in basic necessities, paying for children’s education etc. A study done on three countries in Sub Saharan Africa Burkina Faso, Rwanda and Uganda, “has calculated that AIDS will not only reverse progress in poverty reduction, but will also increase the percentage of people living in extreme poverty (from 45% in 2000 to 51% in 2015)” (

As awareness about aids and preventive measures increase in Africa, popular misconceptions about the way the disease is transmitted has diminished and sexual behavior has changed in accordance. Previously on the onset of the disease people harbored the misconceptions that AIDS was transmitted by kissing, drinking from the glass, eating from the same plate, or even just by looking at each other. However as AIDS awareness in Africa has increased so have these misconceptions changed. Today people know how this disease is transmitted and have accordingly employed preventive measures to help combat its spread. There is an AIDs screening tests for pregnant women and before blood transfusions at hospitals. Prevention measures have also caused a change in the sexual behavior of people in the new millennium. More young sexually active people are using preventive measures such as condoms, delaying their sexual debut, not indulging in casual sex and restricting the number of their sexual partners. This change in sexual behavior is a very effective preventive measure and will reduce infection in the future.

Sixty percent of deaths in sub-Saharan Africa are amongst adults aged between 20 and 49 years (Avert.Org) AIDS is erasing decades of progress made in extending life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa. Average life expectancy is now 47 years for males, when it could have been 62 without AIDS. The Life expectancy among young females has diminished to 35 years .While male deaths have increased because of sexual transmissions and use of infected needles female deaths have increased too because of sexual transmissions and also contractions of virus through blood transfusions. High adult mortality rates point towards a population imbalance. As more people die young, at an age where they are most productive both sexually and economically it is bad news both for the family and for the country. An estimated 12 million children in sub-Saharan Africa (which is 9% of the regions children) have lost one or both parents to AIDS and this figure is expected to increase as the number of adults dying from AIDS rises over the next decade. While infant mortality has decreased the number of children who have contracted the HIV virus while they were in their mother’s womb has increased. It is likely that these children might survive childhood but will not survive adulthood increasing adult mortality rate further.

The Socio economic impact of Aids on economy, households and industry has been very severe .Households are perhaps the most effected as many families are loosing their breadwinners to the AIDS epidemic. In other cases, income earners are forced to stay at home to care for relatives suffering from AIDS. Many of those dying have partners who themselves are suffering from AIDS and cannot go out to earn for the family. As parents and care givers die they leave behind orphans ill equipped to take care of themselves and survive in society.

As more people in the prime of their working lives die from AIDS, Africa is facing a severe decrease in productivity as there is a severe decline in its working population. As productivity decreases so does profitability and economic activity. Companies and the health care system have to spend millions to take care of workers suffering from the disease. Many Companies are providing AIDS treatment for their staff at an additional increased cost.

As health workers get infected health care system and hospitals are also loosing valuable staff in their fight against AIDS. Employers schools factories, hospitals too etc have to train additional workers to replace those who are dying from AIDS. The epidemic is also affecting farming systems. As many nations in Africa are labor intensive agricultural nations the deaths of young people or their sickness mean that there are less people to work on and take care of farms. When there are less able bodied people to do labor intensive work on farms these farms are likely to run into ruin and become agriculturally unfit. This would once again reduce productivity and put a brake on economic activity in the country.

An estimated 15 million people in Africa have died from the AIDS epidemic since its onset. This staggering figure spells a great tragedy not only for the region but also for the entire humanity. Though treatment has now reached the stricken region, it is till being dispensed at an aggravating slow rate. Given the high rate of existing infections it is likely that millions more will die in Africa before the trend is reversed and Governments succeed in controlling the disease


Aver.Org “The HIV & AIDS epidemic in Africa”. 23rd April 2008

John Christensen “AIDS in Africa: Dying by the numbers “ 23rd April 2008

S Hogan, D. R, Baltussen, R., Hayashi, C., Lauer, J. A, Salomon, J. A (2005). “Cost effectiveness analysis of strategies to combat HIV/AIDS in developing countries”. BMJ 331: 1431-1437

Peter Wehrwein” AIDS leaves Africa's economic future in doubt” 23rd April 2008


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