AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome while HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is the virus which causes the disease AIDS. A person who is HIV positive, is said to be HIV infected. But the HIV in the body does not exhibit AIDS symptoms immediately. It takes about ten years to develop the disease called AIDS, after being infected by HIV. The virus was first discovered in the U.S. around 1980s. It destroys the T cells (a type of white blood cells) which help fight infections and it thus significantly weakens the immune system of the person.
The virus present in the body fluid is transmitted from one person to another through blood transfusion, unprotected sex, breast milk or through a common needle used for injecting drugs. During pregnancy, a mother may pass over the virus to the baby. A simple blood test helps detect HIV infection. In Africa, number of people killed by Aids is more than the number of people killed during conflicts. I hope that the quick facts about AIDS in Africa presented in this article will help create awareness about the need for education, medical aid and the basic human rights for women in Africa.
Aids in Africa: Quick Facts
- It is estimated that about 33.3 million people in this world have HIV/AIDS and out of these, 22.5 million are from Africa.
- In 1990s, Sub-Saharan Africa was the center of the HIV epidemic. When about 14 million people were suffering from HIV/AIDS all over the world, about 9 million were living in the Sub-Saharan region, in 1993.
- Higher deaths due to AIDS in Africa are attributed to lack of education, lack of prevention methods and lack of good quality medical treatment. Sad facts about AIDS in Africa are that the average life expectancy has reduced to mere 48 years (especially in Southern Africa) because of the AIDS epidemic and in 2005, out of the 3 million deaths in the world (due to AIDS), about 1 million were in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- The statistical figures informing us about the Africans dying due to AIDS are really shocking. The death of a HIV/AIDS patient in Africa was first registered in 1982 and in 2009, 1.3 million Africans died due to HIV/AIDS. The most interesting fact is that the first patient was a homosexual white from the USA who worked as a steward in an airline company.
- In southern Africa, almost one in five adults is HIV positive. It is estimated that about 180,000 to 280,000 children (under 15) in southern Africa have HIV/AIDS. Millions of children have already lost their parents due to AIDS. These children are homeless. They live on the streets and some are found in orphanages. Most of them carry HIV/AIDS and would not be able to enter into adulthood.
- Interesting facts about AIDS in Africa inform us that polygamy, which is very common in Africa, is responsible for spread of AIDS in Africa. The sociocultural and religious practices are now being considered as risk factors for fast development of HIV/AIDS. People just give away daughters in marriages without checking the lifestyle of the man. This is the main cause of higher prevalence of HIV/AIDS in women in Africa. A man who has lived a promiscuous life before marriage does not declare his HIV status and nobody demands it.
- In urban areas, where polygamy is no longer followed, men engage themselves in extra-marital sex. They believe that the biological nature of men encourages them to establish sexual relationship with many women. Moreover, they believe that they won't have HIV/AIDS after sexual intercourse with a virgin. So, many young girls and women have become victims of HIV/AIDS, as they have been raped. A widow is forced to marry her husband's younger brother. Otherwise, she has to move out and raise her children alone, without any financial help.
- Another shocking fact is about 'dry sex'. Douches, household detergents, certain powders and concoctions are used for drying and/or tightening of the vagina, to increase the friction during intercourse. This gives immense pleasure to males. Lack of lubrication results in lesions in the vaginal lining and breaking of condoms which promote an easy entry of HIV. Lack of natural flora in the vagina increases the risk of getting infected by harmful microorganisms.
- It is a fact that unstable governments in some African countries are responsible for lack of awareness about 'how to prevent AIDS' in people of Africa. Most governments have not succeeded in generating an effective public response to HIV/AIDS.
These were a few facts about AIDS in Africa. The worst is still not over. Due to lack of education, lack of cure for AIDS, lack of easily available treatment; millions of children and adults will continue to suffer from the effects of the AIDS epidemic. Pre-marriage HIV screening should be made compulsory by law. Pre-test and post-test counseling can create awareness about fast spreading AIDS. Good quality treatment should be made available everywhere. Women should have the right to negotiate safer sex. I hope those who are reading these facts would participate in the AIDS awareness programs and fight for the basic rights of African women.