World AIDS Day

It’s been amazing today to see so many people wearing the red ribbon and supporting such a worthy cause. I thought I’d share with you some thoughts I wrote earlier this year when I was studying the issue in relation to the impact the disease has on the developing world.

HIV and AIDS not only impacts the health of the person infected, but has social, economic, cultural and political implications for those affected by HIV/AIDS and the country as a whole. HIV/AIDS  is having a profound effect on lives, livelihoods and development – undermining household production and threatening the sustainability of families:

Mrs Hantuba appeared a highly capable, resilient woman, determined to look after her unexpectedly expanding household. But a current of quiet desperation intruded and welled as the interview continued. She did not have enough to feed and clothe all of the children, let alone to keep them in school. `There are so many children’, she said, `and no one to go to for help’. The interview was in mid-October and she was well aware that it would soon be time to plant again. `But I have no money, no oxen, no funds even to buy seeds’. (Carolyn Baylies: The Impact of AIDS on Rural Households in Africa: A Shock Like Any Other?)

Is poverty the problem?

HIV/AIDS  is an indiscriminate disease, affecting both the rich and the poor, regardless of class and gender. However, the rich have access to healthcare and lifesaving resources that the poor do not. Illness is often seen as a private affair, the family responsible for healthcare incurring costs that compound deprivation in poor families. As a result income diminishes, children are taken out of school, the supply of food is compromised, and possessions are often sold to pay for healthcare.

It can also lead to family disintegration, in situations where the mother dies 65% of families end up dispersed, and the children who are often sent to live with distant relatives are more likely to end up not attending school, working, or on the streets (survey in Zimbabwe, 2000, UNAIDS).

Yet it is the women who often bear the burden of caring for the ill, or are left to support the family (in Zambia, in 2/3 of families where the husband had died, the monthly disposable income fell by over 80%: UNAIDS).

Ultimately it is the poor and marginalised that count the cost of HIV/AIDS. The environment in which infections are transmitted is related to the societal factors such as poverty, sanitation, malnutrition, environmental degradation and access to health care.

Is there a solution to the hopelessness?

UNAIDS suggests a multi-pronged approach could help to tackle the overwhelming problem. By combining public policy based on scientific evidence, high level leadership (goverment involvement), and a multi-sectoral approach (social, economic, and biomedical) the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS could be alleviated. HIV/AIDS remains a virus whose impact infiltrates every sector of society, and we need further improvement of policies that address the relationship between poverty and development.

Published in: on December 1, 2009 at 4:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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