HIV and AIDS: A South African Epidemic.
HIV and Aids have been wiping the nation since the early 80s with over 7.1 million [i]people living with HIV in South Africa. The UN reported that more than three-quarters of AIDS-related deaths occurs in South Africa making it the country with the highest prevalence of HIV in the world. The South African president has dubbed this year as the “Zero Stigma and Discrimination” [ii]year.
Overall women had a significant higher HIV prevalence than men. The prevalence of HIV was highest among women aged 30-34 and among men aged 35-39. In the teenage population the estimated HIV prevalence among women was eight times that of their male equivalents. This suggests that female teenagers aged 15-19 are more likely than their male equivalents to have sex, not with people in the same age group, but with older sex partners meaning they are being raped. In the age group 30-35 over one-third of all women were estimated to be HIV positive.
Myths and discrimination worsen the stigma which then further marginalizes people infected with HIV/AIDS. Raising awareness and educating the public plus adopting laws and rights that protect the interests of those affected by this disease is a responsibility that falls on every one of us.
Before we get to the transmission and symptoms, let us take a look at the difference between the two. HIV can be defined as a virus that damages the immune system, which can infect and kills one’s CD4 cells which exposes different types of infections and cancers. AIDS is then a disease that develops in people with HIV, not every HIV infected person ends up with AIDS just as the amount of time it takes to get AIDS differs from one person to another.
The transmissions of HIV/AIDS:[iii]
- Injections with contaminated needles, whether its drug users or health care workers negligence.
- Blood transfusion, this may be during car accidents or when helping a wounded positive person.
- Mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy or birth (there are ways of navigating around this and a child can come out negative)
- Unprotected intercourse with an infected person
Symptoms, therefore, include:[iv]
- Rapid weight loss
- Dry cough
- Recurring fever or night sweats
- Sever, unexplained fatigue
- Swollen glands in the armpits, groin or neck
- Pneumonia and Tuberculosis
It is very dangerous to diagnose people by just looking at them that is why a blood test is recommended. Clinics and hospitals nationwide offer this service, sometimes the department of health does outreaches where they go from community to community urging people to indulge in situations knowing their status.
The treatment of HIV and AIDS has evolved immensely as patients were taking 5 pills per day (3 in the morning and 2 in the evening) to now taking just one pill. This is why prevention [v]methods are encouraged like:
- Usage of condoms
The distribution of condoms in South Africa is one of the biggest and efficient in the world. Using condoms can decrease chances of getting infected.