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AIDS testing and treatment fall short in Africa

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There have been dramatic progress in the global fight against HIV and AIDS but, massive challenges and misunderstandings still remain, especially in Africa.

Globally, the number of AIDS-related deaths has dropped by  29 per cent since 2005. Access to antiretroviral drugs has expanded more than 40-fold worldwide in the past decade, and the number of new HIV infections has dropped by 33 per cent in the same period.

But last year an estimated 1.6 million people died of AIDS-related causes, and most were Africans. The question still remains as to why most infections are still in Africa despite all current advancements and tools being deployed.Today is World Aids day and here at AHM, we are going to run through some of of the challenges that affect control and eradication of this disease.

 

Ignorance, denial and cultural stigma

Adolescents are more vulnerable than most. Since 2005, there has been a 50 per cent rise in AIDS-related deaths in the 10 to 19 age group, the only demographic group with such a huge increase in HIV infection. However, schools are often reluctant to distribute condoms or educate children about the virus. In most African countries, children cannot be tested for HIV without the permission of their parents, which discourages many from getting tested.

South Africa, which has the world’s largest number of people living with HIV, recently witnessed a political clash over whether to distribute condoms in schools. The health minister wanted a national plan to distribute condoms in schools, but the education minister disagreed with the plan, so it’s now left up to individual schools. In some countries  there is a growing complacency over the AIDS crisis, partly because people have greater access to antiretroviral drugs.

Men

In a lot of African countries, the majority of those who get tested or treated for HIV are women, according to studies. Men  are more likely than women to interrupt their treatment or drop out. This could jeopardize wider efforts to prevent HIV, since men who don’t know their HIV status are less likely to use condoms and more likely to have multiple sexual partners and become ill or die.

Shortage of Drugs

In many African countries, there are serious shortages of HIV medicine, despite a huge expansion of supply in the past decade. South Africa for example has the world’s biggest HIV treatment program, with 2.4 million people on antiretroviral drugs. Yet a new national survey, released this week, found that one-fifth of its health clinics are suffering shortages of the life-saving medicine.

The survey, the largest of its kind ever conducted, suggests that about 420,000 South Africans could be affected by the shortages.On average, the supply problems last for 30 days, and patients are often sent home without the medicine they need, the survey found.These kinds of disruptions in HIV treatment may ultimately lead to more drug resistance, illness and death.

Poor Governance

While countries such as South Africa and Malawi have dramatically improved their HIV treatment programs in the past decade, many other African countries are too poor or disorganized to provide treatment to those who need it.

Some of the worst crises are in Nigeria, Guinea, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although their HIV rates are lower than most countries in southern Africa, their governments are failing to provide treatment to most people who have the virus.As a result, more people get infected and die of the deadly disease. Some lives could be saved but a lot of times, its too late.

AHM solution in summary:

1. Educate students in schools about HIV and other STD’s/STI’s and distribute condoms.

2. Make HIV services accessible to men and create campaigns to improve their health seeking behaviour

3.Increase access to drugs to prevent shortages

4.Interventions to  reduce stigma and discrimination

5.Good  governance

 

Image: Time Magazine

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