The Global Struggle for HIV Treatment
There is little doubt anymore that HIV/AIDS is the greatest health hurdle that we as a people have to face this generation, and more than likely for many generations to come. Despite phenomenal medical breakthroughs and countless billions of dollars used to fight the epidemic, the number of people infected has never been higher.
During much of the dialogue regarding HIV/AIDS there has been something of a narrow point of view in how to combat the increasing infection rate. Local efforts are far more prevalent than global ones are, and resources are often scarce in those areas that need them most.
In fact despite this being a global issue, it would be irresponsible to pull focus and these resources from the dangerously infected Africa. According to the CIA World Factbook’s most recent data from 2009, Africa has seven out of the top ten countries with the highest number of adults living with HIV/AIDS. Factor in that many of these countries’ populations are contracting at a much faster rate and Africa’s known epidemic of children with the disease as well, and it is a staggeringly alarming situation.
This epidemic becomes all the more chilling when statistics are looked at from a percentage standpoint. While the United States may find itself in the upper ranks of infected adults on the basis of sheer number, it is estimated that only 0.6 percent of the population is living with HIV/AIDS. As a stark comparison, 26.1 percent of Swaziland’s population is reported to be infected.
This trend continues throughout most of Africa, leaving the continent ravaged with disease in a way that the rest of the world has not seen. What makes the situation that much more dire is that Africa is interminably resource and cash poor, leaving them with very little options to treat their people. Awareness is at times the best that its governments can hope for.
Caribbean, Central America and Southeast Asia at High Risk
But Africa is not alone in this aspect. A number of regions have fallen prey to the disease as well. Much of the Caribbean, Central America, and Southeast Asia have high percentages of infection, particularly the more impoverished nations in the region. In fact, the focus being pulled between local needs and Africa’s increasingly high demands have left many of these nations without the foreign aid necessary to properly combat their rising rates.
And yet, it is not simply the smaller and impoverished nations of the world with an epidemic on their hands. As a matter of population numbers, three of the most alarming nations to look at are the United States, Russia, and India. With relatively low rates of infection (0.6 percent, 0.3 percent, 0.3 percent, respectively) the large nations still carry close to 15 percent of the world’s total infections.
So, what is the point of all of these numbers and statistics? Perspective. While there are many living conditions and diseases that are all but extinct in the more wealthy nations of the world, HIV/AIDS is something of an equalizer. While much of Eastern Europe and the Middle East claim to have low infection rates, much of the world cannot deny the continued effect the disease has had on their citizens. Small and large, weak and powerful; such measurements matter little in this global fight against this juggernaut.
Multilateral efforts to cure, treat, and prevent further contraction of HIV/AIDS are tirelessly continuing their efforts, but many of the more affected nations have taken up ways of their own to raise awareness and relief. The key to successful campaigns is usually a mixture of clear, strong information coupled with events that appeal to individual countries’ citizens.
South Africa has tackled their overwhelming numbers by funneling enormous efforts for testing and contraception distribution through their healthcare system. The nation has hit a number of milestones at an extremely accelerated rate. Increasing the amount of condoms handed out by 75 percent, the number of their population getting tested by 60 percent, and the number of circumcisions completed has brought a level of awareness on the subject to a population that had dismally scarce education up until the last five years.
India, on the other hand, has been more known for its creative and aggressive campaigns, starting in schools and targeting kids at a very young age. With such a huge number of its population infected, India has a lot to gain from ensuring that their younger generations are educated and cautious from a young age about the dangers of HIV. Additionally, the nation frequently uses sports tournaments and biking marathons to address its high numbers, as well as making it a priority to make cheap and effective treatments available.
Still, even increased efforts on these governments’ parts cannot easily overcome the lack of education and negative stigma that surrounds HIV infection. Middle Eastern and African countries specifically have a history of letting pride and cultural traditions prevent people from being tested and seeking treatment. It is important then that the level of discourse globally be one of treatment and education to break through devastating social barriers that have so badly held up this road to what many are calling an "HIV-free generation."
Regardless of the program that is being put into action, there is no global health initiative more pressing and important than the fight against HIV/AIDS. Whether it be aggressive awareness and prevention campaigns, fundraisers and special events to raise money for numerous causes, or medical research for further treatments or a cure, it is heartening to see that even the areas who are suffering the most are finding effective ways of combating the epidemic. We are far from ending the nightmare that HIV/AIDS has brought upon us, but this is a global problem and must continue to be dealt with as such.
This article is part of our "World AIDS Day 2012" series. Want to read more?
Here's the full list»