For over 30 years now, HIV/AIDS has been spreading throughout the world, mainly in Africa. Of the estimated 32.9 million people living with the fatal disease, 71% reside in Africa. Of those people, 88% live in South Africa. With the lack of public schools, the crisis is expected to worsen because most people are unaware of the dangers that the disease poses.
In South Africa, about 18.1% of the population (49 million) are living with HIV/AIDS, more then in any country in the world. In 2006 alone, it is estimated that there were 336,000 AIDS related deaths in South Africa, which is nearly 1,000 lives every day. Most affected by AIDS are the children whose parents have been infected. When their parents pass away, their responsibilities multiply and their chances of receiving an education are severely limited.
With an estimated 2 million AIDS orphans in South Africa, children are expected to stay home and work to supply their families with food and shelter. For the women, the only possible way to do this is by going into prostitution, which further increases their chance of contracting HIV. If the woman ends up being pregnant and she is infected with HIV/AIDS, the child will most likely contract it too, unless the mother has the money to pay for the medication to prevent it, which isn’t very likely in the poor parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.
In South Africa, 9 out of 10 children who have HIV/AIDS were infected by their mother through breastfeeding, pregnancy or while in labor. This is virtually unavoidable- with the poverty they live in, mothers are forced to breastfeed and medication is very difficult to obtain.
Map showing the prevalence of HIV in Africa
The children who didn’t contract it from their mothers could have been infected by someone with HIV/AIDS through sexual abuse. Myths in parts of Africa claim that HIV can be cured by having sex with a virgin, which leads to rapes. Also, a large number of people believe that the use of condoms puts a restrain on the traditional power of the man in his community.
The good news is that the spreading of the virus can be stopped with proper education. Studies suggest that the people who complete their primary education are half as likely to contract HIV as people who don’t have any education. Due to the absence of public schools, many people living in poor households don’t get the chance to receive an education. The only way forward is prevention. With only 22% of Black Africans completing high school, the people are highly uneducated and unaware of the virus.
A survey made in 2009 concluded that only 15% of married couples use a condom. But, in African culture, women are treated like property and men can have affairs with other women. By having casual sex, their risk of contracting the disease is increased. If they do end up getting HIV, they can still spread it, completely unaware that they are even infected. If one of his lovers happens to get pregnant, mother-to-child infection is bound to take place. In 2007, the South African Department of Health Study estimated that 28% of pregnant women were HIV positive. Even if they did get the medication to prevent the child from being infected, if they don’t have the money to pay for formula milk, they are forced to breastfeed, which will pass the virus onto the infant.
Rather then the South African government investing more money to fund public education, they use it for research. A government-funded study concluded that on average, HIV positive patients occupy more then half of hospital beds and they remain in the hospital almost four times as long as patients without the virus. These studies are almost useless if the government isn’t doing anything to help the crisis.
Although the South African government has made an attempt to raise awareness by advertising the availability of free testing, they only aim to reach about 50% of the people with their campaign that began in April 2010. In spite of the fact that there are HIV/AIDS awareness organizations, their announcements are either televised or put on billboards in urban cities. They are forgetting the part of the population that live in rural areas and villages. One organization, Khomanani, was severely demoted in March 2010 when there was a disagreement on government funding.
Despite the fact that there are many awareness campaigns, the correct knowledge is not being spread. The only thing that people learn from the advertisements is that there are local clinics for testing and that there are places where they can increase their sex education. But, in a place filled with poverty and disease, the will of an individual comes into consideration. If a person is not willing to increase their knowledge, they will not go to these clinics to learn the things that they saw in the advertisements. Spreading awareness of the virus is not the only thing that the organizations need to advertise. They need to make sure that people know the facts.
In order to resolve the problem, the correct information must be distributed. One study reported that less then half of the people surveyed knew the benefits of condom use or that having less sexual partners would reduce their lower the risk of receiving HIV.
In 2007, the government distributed 256 million condoms to the African public, down from 376 million in 2006 even though the problem hardly becoming better. In 1997, there were about 317,000 AIDS related deaths, when in 2006, that number nearly doubled with 607,000 deaths.
Attempts to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS have hardly been a success in South Africa. Without proper education, the virus will keep spreading. But, there is hope. The only way out of the crisis is prevention, which can be easily reached with the right information.
“11 Facts about HIV in Africa | Do Something.” Volunteer | Do Something. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2010. <http://www.dosomething.org/actnow/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-hiv-africa>.
2006, the end of, an estimated 5.4 million South Africans were infected with HIV, and the largest number of individuals living with the virus in a single country.. “Important facts about HIV and AIDS.” Education and Training Unit (ETU). N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2010. <http://www.etu.org.za/toolbox/docs/aids/facts.html>.
“HIV/AIDS in Africa – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV/AIDS_in_Africa>.
“Testing, making, and counselling provider-initiated it is hoped diagnosis of HIV will take place earlier. “HIV & AIDS in South Africa.” AIDS & HIV information from the AIDS charity AVERT. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2010. <http://www.avert.org/aidssout
Dickens, Sarah. Personal interview. 10 Nov. 2010.