UN reports state that sub-Saharan Africa contains little more
than 10 percent of the world's population and two thirds of the
overall population in this region are people living with HIV
(UNAIDS 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic). AIDS has
caused enormous human suffering and some of the problems the
continent is faced with can be linked to the epidemic. All
sectors of society have been affected; from households to the
health sector, economy, and much more.
No part of the population is unaffected by HIV/AIDS but it is
the poorest members of society that are most affected and
vulnerable, and whom consequences of the epidemic are most
severe to. Parents die, children are given to relatives but
relatives are also affected children end up on their own hence
families dissolve. Emotional drain, pain, despair, uncertainty
and other emotions are brought about by the epidemic.
Breadwinners die; medical costs and funeral costs further
deplete the families. Families may choose to spend less on
necessities like food to take care of their sick members with
the hope that they would get better, and when they die it is a
major blow to the family and they may never recover financially
when the breadwinner dies. The rate of food production has
dropped dramatically because HIV/AIDS is affecting the able
members of our families then there is no one to cultivate the
fields although drought is also to blame for this situation.
With less food production, families are forced to rely on
handouts or food distribution. Children lose not only caretakers
or guardians, but sometimes their childhood as well, as they may
be forced to be parents to their siblings at a tender age.
An increase in the prevalence rate of HIV in a country means
the strain on that country's hospitals is likely to increase. In
countries where there are shortages in health care supplies like
beds and bedding material, not to mention medication, patients
may be forced to use the floors and the hospitals may be forced
to admit more than they are required or people are forced to
return home. This may reduce the standard of care given to
patients and you'll find cases like one nurse being responsible
for 100 patients per day.
Health workers are also not spared from the epidemic yet there
is also a high demand for health care. The conditions doctors,
nurses and other health professionals work in – poor pay,
excessive workloads and so on – forces them to migrate to
countries with better opportunities, immediately after they've
obtained better training and experience. Governments have to put
in more money for treatment and the health sector proves to need
more in terms of government funding.
As education workers are affected by the epidemic, the level
and quality of education suffers in turn. Children are forced
out of school because there is no one to pay school fees or they
have to take care of their sick parents.
With the labour force also affected, social and economic
progress is heavily set back. There is less productivity when
people are constantly sick and absent from work to the point
where they do not recover. Not only that, but there are
additional costs in outsourcing skills, skill is washed out,
more sick leaves with pay and so on; companies have to invest
more in productivity. There is increased absenteeism hence
recruitment and training expenses.
AIDS is washing down the drain years of progress in trying to
extend life expectancy in many African countries. In Swaziland
for instance, it has been estimated that life expectancy at
birth, which is currently just 33, would be 66 without AIDS
(UNDP, Human Development Report 2005). Government revenues have
declined because most of the people die at a time when they have
to contribute towards government tax.
HIV/AIDS came at a time when most African countries were still
struggling to find their feet after war, debt and
underdevelopment. Some of these countries are still struggling
to measure up to these crises. Some governments still struggle
to provide basic infrastructure for its citizens.
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