HIV/AIDS in Africa

Of the 34 million people worldwide infected with HIV/AIDS, 22.9 million of them are from Sub-Saharan region of Africa. That’s 68%. When thinking about the AIDS epidemic, the stereotypical thought is Africa. Why is that so? There are several factors that lead to the bulk of the AIDS epidemic basing in Africa, in particularly the sub – Saharan area. It is impossible to conclude this question with one answer, but a combination of factors could contribute to the prevention of this disease.

Africa is well known as a poor region, with marginalisation and poverty being a growing issue and a concern. The HIV/AIDS epidemic could be seen as a result of this, but for matter of statement, a further look into the historical and geographical trends of people movement, population and slavery need to be considered.

In developed countries HIV/AIDS is seen as a homosexually transmitted disease, but in undeveloped countries, ie, Africa, the disease is primarily heterosexual, with the larger percentage of victims being young females. To this, there are several factors. The first is the cultural belief of women being the inferior; not having the right to say no. A personal example I can share is one from my Nepal trip. I was on one of the local buses getting back into the city. Being a typical lunch time bus, it was extremely crowded with little room to even breathe. It was so crowded that people were pushing up against the front of the bus. One woman was sitting close to the bus driver. Instead of politely asking the woman to move the bus driver turned around and shoved the woman out of his space. The inferiority to women was made clear. This inferiority has made it difficult for girls and women to demand safer sex and to end relationships that carry the threat of infection. Studies have shown that young women in these undeveloped regions tend to marry older men as they serve as social and financial security as well as a satisfier to their materialistic aspirations. The problem that this then presents with the HIV/AIDS spread is the increase of risk infection.

Another factor that contributes to the HIV/AIDS epidemic severity in Africa is the ignorance towards sexual health. A clear example of the difference between undeveloped and developed countries in the way of sex education is the use of well known slogans.

  

And sadly, a big leading contributor to the severity of HIV/AIDS in undeveloped countries is the lack of funds to pay for medication. Although there is no one given answer as to why Africa is so highly affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, there are several insights that combined give an insight and a way in which we, as the first world can make a difference.

References

Barnett, T and Whiteside, A.(2002) AIDS in the Twenty-First Century. Great Britain, Antony Rowe Ltd.

Edited by: Gibney, L, DiClemente, R and Vermund, S. (1999) Preventing HIV in Developing Countries. Kluwer Academic/ Plenum Publishers, New York.

Willis, E. (2011) Chapter 5: Structure and Critique: The Sociological Quest. Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest NSW. pp.102 – 105.

HIV/AIDS in the Public Sphere

What is the public sphere? According to the Oxford dictionary of Critical Theory, the public sphere is a term for any realm of social life in which public opinion can be formed. This can be done via magazines, newspapers, radio news, tv news and the internet. In the way of HIV/AIDS though, how many newspapers, magazines, radio news channels etc have placed an info sesh  for people to voice their opinion and educate the otherwise uneducated public? Not many. Recently, I asked a bunch of my friends to give a brief overview of what they knew about HIV/AIDS. The answers they gave me very much so varied, but there was a very visible gap in between who was educated and who wasn’t. I will keep the responses anonymous, but here is the result:

“Its a sexually transmitted disease that can be passed on to unborn babies even years after being diagnosed, it can also be passed on through dirty needles or if your blood and someone who has HIV/AIDS blood are mixed. It isn’t curable but there a ways to help with symptoms…”

“There are ways of ensuring that mothers don’t pass it onto the babies… It’s preventable but lack of education and meds in poorer countries as well as environmental conditions affect its transmission….”

“can be transmitted by breast feeding as well, hiv is a retrovirus, kills helper cell(c4, cd4 something like that) or attaches to them then the t cell(cd8?) come in and destroy them. This results in the immune deficiency or aids, which leads to a reduction in ones ability [to] fight cancer, disease, viruses, germs. this means something like the cold can kill you…”

“It should be avoided at all costs”

“Yeah what they said lol”

Just in the small group of people I asked, a big differ can be seen not only in the way they’ve been educated but also in the manner in which the topic was approached. The small “lol” at the end of the last response shows not only a possible lack of confidence about the issue but it could also act as an indicator of ignorance.  Recently radio station Triple J hosted ‘Sex Week’, where every weekday evening between 5-5:30pm people would call in and talk about their ‘sex’ stories. One of the days was STI day, and the story heard was that of 20 year old’s, Steph; where the question posed was ‘would you date someone who is HIV positive?’ I think the outcomes of this particular story and other people’s STI stories acted as an excellent way to get much needed information out there as Triple J is a nation wide radio station and even has international access aimed at a younger audience. These stories make people realize, ‘wow, these people are actually normal!’

On a note of finalisation, I am going to conclude this post with a video from Australian website TuneInNotOut about Australian youth sufferers of HIV/AIDS. I’ll let you form an opinion on how you think the public sphere has created the way we look at HIV/AIDS.

 

References:

TuneInNotOut 2010, accessed 28/04/12, http://www.tuneinnotout.com/

TuneInNotOut 2012, HIV, accessed 28/04/12, http://www.tuneinnotout.com/topics/sex/sti/hiv/

Triple J, 2010, Hack: Positively Dating, accessed 28/04/12, http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/hack/stories/s3431357.htm

Freddie Mercury

The video which “spawned the video age”. The song that still to this day every living soul knows. Freddie Mercury was the lead singer of world renowned band Queen. On the 24th of November 1991, Mercury died of bronchio-pneumonia which was brought on by AIDS. His death was one that shocked the world and put into heavy spin AIDS awareness campaigns. Mercury was only when he died, and had only publicly announced the day before his passing that he was HIV positive. In a newspaper article the following day, Dr Patrick Dixon (an AIDS education charity director) told the BBC that Mercury admitting he was suffering from the disease was his greatest gift to his fans. He said:

“His hope was no doubt that through his openness many people throughout the world would see that AIDS is a real illness – that it’s killing people every day.”

Searching Freddie Mercury’s death on will show how affected the world was by his sudden death. And what was happening to create a world awareness about this disease. On Easter Monday of April 1992, The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness was held at the Wembley Stadium in London. 72 000 people attended and the concert was broadcast around the globe to 70 countries and raised approximately £20 million for AIDS charities. Mercury has since been named a rock legend due to his large contribution to music and his premature death. Even now he is still remembered. In August of 2002 Mercury was voted in a topp 100 British heroes poll held by the BBC.

Every year on the first of December since 1995 is World AIDS day. Where people can be seen wearing the red AIDS ribbon. Each year the UNAIDS choose a different theme for World AIDS Day in oder to promote awareness.

SOURCES USED:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/november/24/newsid_2546000/2546945.stm

http://www.worldaidsday.org.au/internet/wad/Publishing.nsf/content/home

हिव/एड्स इन नेपाल

Last September I went to Nepal to do volunteer work. About a week before departing I thought I was working in an orphanage. Seven days before my flight I was contacted by the volunteer company and told my placement had changed and I was now working at a rehab centre for children with HIV/AIDS. I panicked. All of a sudden I no longer wanted to go to Nepal. Why? Because all I knew about AIDS was that it was super contagious and it killed you. That was all school sex-ed taught me.

The same reaction was then repeated when I told each of my friends. We were all certain that I was going to come home infected with what I thought was a highly contagious disease.

My anxieties weren’t settled until I was sat down by my father (who has worked in hospitals for over forty years). He explained HIV/AIDS to me in great detail. But to cut it short, the infection can only be transferred through unprotected sex with an infected person, blood transfusion and swallowing a litre of an infected persons saliva. Unless I was going to be reckless there was a pretty well close to zero chance I’d come home infected.

Upon arriving in Nepal, I learnt that the HIV/AIDS stigma was very ill. The children at MSPN (the rehab centre) had to travel an hour to get to a hospital that accepted HIVpositive patients. The rehab centre itself was pretty shabby with the only nice rooms having been done up by former volunteers. Most appallingly though was a newspaper article that showed three children that had been expelled from school when it was found that they were HIVpositive. I learnt later on in my trip that the stigma was so ill as the Nepalese government has a very anti-HIV attitude, which also gives the country a bad image. The government does not fund HIV/AIDS rehab centres, nor awareness. In fact the government is so anti that lubricant is not sold and condoms are only of cheap quality, which doesn’t help prevent the spread of the disease. The problem is so severe over there that The Nepalese government were confronted by the UN who stated that awareness needs to be set about and that the government needs to rid this ill image that’s being cast accross the country.

Five months later, I can still say without hesitation that working with those kids was the best thing I’ve done with my life. It really opened my eyes up to the much needed awareness of not just HIV/AIDS but all STI’s in general. While over there I was so happy and nothing made me more brighter than by being greeted every morning by “namaste didi” and hugs and kisses from the children. And just incase you were wondering, I DIDN’T come home infected.

Below is a picture of afew of the children I cared for. I dare you to tell me don’t look normal.

HIV/AIDS Passed onto humans via Chimpanzee’s

https://apps.facebook.com/wpsocialreader/me/channels/read/content/VIZak?utm_source=editorial&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=srfanou

 

Attatched is a link to the Washington Social Facebook Application. Finally social media is being used to share news that people neglect on tv. This link that I have attatched (and recommend reading) is about HIV/AIDS and how the epidemic grew in Africa several years ago.

Apparently the story is old and scientists and the public have known for years, but I didn’t and found it rather interesting. Maybe you will share the same thought.

Did you know that the HIV virus was passed onto humans by Chimps?

Neither did I.

Around 1900 a hunter in southeastern Cameroon, Africa caught an infected chimp for food. The blood from the chimpanzee passd through to the human probably through a cut whilst butchering. And so started the AIDS epidemic.

The article then contiues to tell of how the disease spread from Africa to Europe to North America and recent scientific finds.

So for those of you that may have been wondering what started the horrible disease that has killedd many over its time, this article is a good start to getting those questions answered.

HIV/AIDS Awareness, or Lack Thereof.

Confronting isn’t it?

This tv commercial, which was aired in 1987  is probably the most memorable ad for those that were alive at the time to remember it. Today was the first time I saw it and I know I won’t be forgetting it anytime soon. Although this ad was the cause of much commotion at the time, it definately did it’s job in rasing an awareness and encouraging the use of condoms. This commercial was played at peak-view times and attempted to cull the beliefs of it only being a man to man sexually transmitted disease and IV needle users disease by showing innocent people, such as women and children dying due to AIDS.

A Brief History (1)

  • The first case of HIV/AIDS in Australia was at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney in 1982. The first Australian death due to AIDS was in Melbourne in 1983.
  • HIV stands for Human Immunodefiency Virus
  • AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Defiency Syndrome.
  • HIV and AIDS ARE NOT the same!!
  • A person can be HIV positive for several years before it develops into AIDS
  • In Australia we are lucky enough to have medication for HIV, making the development of HIV into AIDS preventable usually by 10-20 years, sometimes even more.
  • AIDS will eventually develop because the immune system becomes weaker due to the virus over time. Once it is weakened, it struggles to protect itself from certain infections and cancers.
  • There is no cure for HIV/AIDS

In 2010 it is estimated that there were 34million people worldwide infected by HIV/AIDS. In 1990 there were only 8million people infected. (2)

This compares to just under 40, 000 cases of HIV/AIDS in Australia from the beginning of the epidemic to 2009.  In Australia there have been 6776 AIDS related deaths, worldwide the estimated number of deaths is 30million.

If there have been so many deaths due to HIV/AIDS, why is it we have heard close to nothing about it on tv/newspapers/social media? What we need is awareness. Maybe not as severe as the Grim Reaper, but something just as memorable.

References Used

Website, “Tune In Not Out”

http://www.tuneinnotout.com/topics/sex/sti/hiv?gclid=CK_7qrjx6q4CFWFNpgodWFmBIg

Website, “Worldwide HIV & AIDS Statistics”

http://www.avert.org/worldstats.htm

 

 

HIV/AIDS Awareness Failure

If I were to ask you a question about HIV/AIDS how would you respond? Infact would you even be able to tell me more than it’s an STI and it’s contagious?

September of last year I left the country to go and do some volunteer work in Nepal. For several months upon leaving I had been placed in an orphanage, but at the last minute my placement changed and I was now working at an HIV/AIDS rehab centre for children and their mothers. My first reaction was “I don’t want to do it, I’m going to come home with AIDS!” Of course this reaction was repeated several times as I told each of my friends. The reason I reacted this way was because I have had very little education in the way of STI’s, especially HIV/AIDS. All I knew was it was an STI, super contagious and it killed you. It seems at in-school sex education all they really dig into is the use of condoms and/or the pill and abstinance. STI’s are only lightly touched. This seems to be the same in the media. How is it Britney Spears’ next huge breakdown can be on the front of every paper/magazine/all over the interenet, when there are much more serious issues that need to be addressed?

More recently, there have been few articles regarding STI’s and the importance of safe sex being published in Women’s magazine’s to raise awareness as the contraption of STI’s grew. In Australia in 2008 STI’s accounted for 43% of communicable diseases reported. 84% of those cases were chlamydia (which equals to 58515 notifications). Pretty scary huh. Of these STI statistics, 38608 of them were HIV/AIDS reported cases. The average number of notifications between 2004-2008 was 984.  Of the 38608 accumulated cases, 6765 died. That is a huge number. You may be reading this and smugly thinking “but it’s a gay man disease”; I can assure you, you are totally wrong. Sexual contact between men is the most commonly form of transmission (66% in 2008), but in just the short period between 2005-2008 the exposure through heterosexual contact rose from 19.3% to 27.1%.

The point I am trying to make here is that there needs to be more media coverage on this issue! The longer this is put aside in the shadows, the higher the rates are going to get and the stronger the ill stigma will be.

I can reassure how bad the HIV/AIDS stigma is by sharing my Nepal stories. So after the freak out I had, I was sat down by my father who has worked in hospitals for over forty years. He explained HIV/AIDS to me in great detail and answered every question and anxiety I had. To put it in short the only way you can contract HIV/AIDS is through unprotected sex with an infected person, blood transfusion and swallowing a litre of an infected persons saliva. It also helped that my very own Dad has worked with patients that have HIV/AIDS and DOESN’T have the disease. Infact, you really don’t know who does. The person sitting next to you may even be infected by it, there are no visual signs that say ‘Hey, that person has HIV/AIDS!’

Look at the children in this picture. They look happy, right? They were born infected with HIV. Can you tell?

One of the first things I noticed on my first day at MSPN (the rehab centre) was how shabby the place really was. Even though Nepal is a third world country, you can still clearly see differences in standards. The rehab centre was a wreck, with the only nice areas having been done up or donated by other volunteers. The difference in how poor MSPN was in comparison to other government funded places was made very clear to me when I worked at an orphanage one afternoon. The house was nicer than mine! It was three stories. The lounge room had a huge flat screen tv, and there was a huge fish tank (the kind you only ever see in dentist office’s) the size of a wall with (I counted) twelve huge fish in it! Talk about unjust!

After walking through the gates on that first day, after being greeted by “Namaste Didi” (Hello Sister. An older woman is refered to as Didi; sister, in Nepal) from several of the children, I was showed inside to the office. In the office there was a noticeboard with information about HIV/AIDS, pictures of how the children have grown (visually) healthier (when first admitted a lot of the children were malnuritioned and suffered from tubercolosis, a usual disease associated with HIV/AIDS) over the course of their stay (usually six months), and quite shockingly a newspaper article. This particular article was so shocking and really makes obvious the stigma. In this article there was a picture of three perfectly normal looking children who had been expelled from their school because they had HIV/AIDS. It’s disgusting. How can these children grow to live a normal life when they’ve been kicked out of school for something they can’t help!

My sadness and somewhat anger towards the stigma only grew when I decided to accompany a hospital trip. MSPN is located in a suburb of Kathmandu called Patan. Patan has a hospital; infact it was only a ten minute walk from MSPN. Believe it or not, there are several hospitals in the Kathmandu area! With this in mind, you’d think it no problem needing to visit the hospital for a check up. No. To get to a hospital, these poor children had to travel an hour! Why? Simply because no other hospitals in the area would accept HIV/AIDS patients.

I also would like to add that although I started volunteering at MSPN with much apprehension, over the course of four weeks I have never met a happier bunch of people that have found such a deep place in my heart. I loved arriving to work and being bombarded by big hugs and kisses from the children. Upon leaving I was given a card that each of the children had written in, in this card in bold letters was written: “We love you Kachina Didi.”

HIV/AIDS and infact every sexually transmitted infection is a topic that should not be treaded around lightly. My Nepal story is only one of many that proves that these innocent people deserve better. Which is why over the next couple of months I will be addressing the political issues surrounding HIV/AIDS and the lack of much needed media coverage.