AIDS/HIV (auto-immunodeficiency syndrome) is quickly becoming the worst disease the world has ever seen, pulling in numbers of death tolls that exceed those of the bubonic plague. “By 2010 its death toll will be higher than that of the two world wars combined, and it will soon be worse than the total claimed by all wars put together,” (Hunter 7). HIV is the virus that causes AIDS; symptoms only become apparent after the virus lies quietly within the infected person for seven to ten years and most HIV-positive people feel so healthy during this period they do not get tested. This leads to easy passing of the virus, with the infected person having no idea what they are doing.
There are five ways in which HIV can be contracted (Hunter 9); ordinary heterosexual intercourse is the most common of the ways. Bisexual or homosexual intercourse and injecting drug use are also very popular ways. The fourth way is transmission from mother to child in utero and during birth, as well as breast feeding. The final way that this disease is usually contracted is through infected blood transfusions that would be used to help hemophiliacs or a case of extreme loss of blood.
Two of the major driving forces in the spread of HIV/AIDS are poverty and labor migration. These are issues that have no sexual bias, but nevertheless lead people into behavior or circumstances that place them at risk for infection of HIV. The following table gives the figures for the estimated number of adults and children living with AIDS at the end of 2003 in South Africa:
ted Nations South Africa Fact Sheet 2)
This essay will take a look at this incredibly dangerous epidemic particularly in South Africa and will answer the following questions: Why is South Africa so heavily plagued with this disease as opposed to other areas of the world and why has the government been largely unsuccessful in its attempts to deter the spread of the virus? What areas does the South African government need to focus on to improve the current crisis with AIDS? What kind of economic impacts could HIV/AIDS have on South Africa’s future?
Why is South Africa so heavily plagued by this virus as opposed to other areas of the world and why has the government been largely unsuccessful in its attempts to deter the spread of the virus?
There are seven countries in southern Africa that make up the global epicenter of the AIDS epidemic. These countries are Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and South Africa. In the following table the prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS in these different countries is shown through different splices of the population, which can be evaluated and compared.
These countries individually struggle with AIDS for different reasons, but all of these neighboring countries are interconnected with the increase of the AIDS epidemic. This will be explained further, later in the essay.
The notion of South Africa being heavily plagued by AIDS as opposed to other areas of the world is one that has not been completely solved. While no one has a definitive answer, there are definitely inferences
that can be made according to analysis of the African culture and specifics to South Africa, as well as an analysis of economic issues that contribute to the virus’ prevalence.
Initially there was an assumption that people in Africa must simply be more promiscuous than people in the West. Nana K. Poku, writes of Professor Nathan Clumeck from the Universite Libre in Brussels who recently claimed in a 2003 edition of Le Monde that, “sex, love and disease do not mean the same thing to Africans as they do to West Europeans because the notion of guilt does not exist in the same way as it does in Judeo-Christian cultures of the west,” (Poku 194). This notion, however, is simply a development of an old stereotype that was used to justify the need that colonialists had for social control within their colonies. There is very little evidence that would support this theory and most African cultures suggest the exact opposite; in many African cultures, sexual modesty is highly emphasized for African women (Poku 194). Sexuality is considered a gift that should be used for the purpose of procreation. As a result of this, any initial sexual relationship that develops is intended to be the basis on which a marital relationship will be formed (Poku 194). While in the West, the concept of having a boyfriend or girlfriend is just a part of the life of a teenager or young adult, there is no parallel for this concept in most traditional African cultures. No one has ever shown that people from the core areas of the epidemic in Africa are more sexually active than people from Western Europe (Poku 194). These facts imply that it is not just the sexual behavior of Africans that is causing AIDS to be so prevalent, but that there is something in the culture of Africa which is conducive to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Several cultural issues that are relevant to the social structure of South Africa have implications in the level of ease at which this disease is transmitted. South Africa has always had a patriarchal base and the lack of progression from this base has led to the status of women in their society being very low; this allows for male domination in overlooked areas, such as relationships, and results in women’s great difficulty in obtaining means to protect themselves in a sexual context. In societies where women are reliant on males for some form of support, it makes it very difficult for a woman to stand up to the male that she shares a relationship with. Women in this position develop a certain tolerance to the situation in which they accept issues that are the cause of many divorces in the west (Barnett and Blaikie 162); they learn that because of their economic dependence on their husband, they have to accept that he shares multiple sexual partners and this has, unfortunately, become the reluctant norm. One must keep in mind as well that ultimately it is the man’s decision whether or not to wear the condom. A female that refuses sex without a
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