AIDS in Africa

Africa (the AIDS Crisis)

Vertical Transmission in Africa

Containing Vertical Transmission

Government Initiative

Role of NGO's

AIDS in Africa

AIDS has ravished the African continent over the last two decades killing millions of young adults and orphaning millions of children. Economic deficits, political and religious inhibitions and lackadaisical attitudes of governments have worsened the situation to epidemic proportions. The enormous scale of the problem necessitates an active and cooperative participation of the healthcare sector, the government and Non-governmental organizations.

AIDS represents the single largest threat to Africa with around 64% of the world's HIV infected people living in the continent. In seven of the African nations more than 20% of the population are HIV positive. [UNAIDS] the epidemic has killed more than 25 million people and orphaned an estimated 12 million children. AIDS has devastated the already deprived African economies leaving them totally dependent on external funding for prevention programs and treatment of the infected people. Though constituting only 10% of the world's population Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 80% of AIDS related deaths in the world. The average life expectancy in sub-Saharan African nations has been reduced by 40% reflecting the graveness of the epidemic. [the World Bank Group] Lets us briefly explore the AIDS epidemic in Africa and assess the immediate policy needs to contain and counter the dreadful scourge.

Africa (the AIDS Crisis)

As the statistics indicate AIDS represents a gloomy cloud over the entire African continent. The ailing economy has limited access to diagnostic methods and treatment plans for the vast majority of the affected people. In Africa the spread of AIDS is mainly due to heterosexual transmission and vertical transmission. In a male dominated culture where promiscuity is agreeable there is no surprise about the speed of transmission and the scale of devastation. The lack of education and awareness about sexual hygiene has literally given a free vent for AIDS and the disease went undiagnosed and unchecked. The lack of testing facilities has hindered early detection of the condition leaving millions of people undetected until the manifestation of clinical symptoms.

Vertical Transmission in Africa (an unchecked Cause)

One of the problems that are particularly prominent from the African perspective is the rapid spread of AIDS from the mother to the child. Lack of preventive interventions has contributed to an uncontrolled vertical transmission of the disease affecting millions of children. It is reported that the risk of AIDS infection from the mother to the child is next only to direct blood transfusion with the affected people. Reports also indicate that 65% of vertical transmission occurs during the delivery time and there is a 12% possibility of HIV infection via breastfeeding. The alarming fact that 20% of all African women under 25 are HIV positive poses a great risk for vertical transmission. [Barry D. Schoub, 119] the problem is further amplified by the lack of access to hospitals during childbirth leaving more than a million African women delivering their babies in their homes under primitive conditions without any safeguards against vertical transmission. In comparison, wealthy developed nations with their access to better healthcare facilities (cesarean section) and the availability of anti-retroviral therapy have largely reduced the risk of vertical transmission to less five percent. [Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation]

Containing Vertical Transmission (a high Priority)

Studies have indicated that using a course of retroviral drugs such as AZT (zidovudine) has a significant positive effect in reducing perinatal HIV infection. However the high cost of zidovudine (53$ per course) has made it difficult for implementation in a large-scale setup. It is to be observed that the per-capita health care allocation in many of the African countries such as Tanzania, Nigeria and Ghana is less than 8$ per year, which makes Zidovudine treatment an unfeasible solution. Another drug Nevirapine is currently being used widely as an effective and cheaper treatment to contain MTCT (mother to child transmission). This drug is given one time to the mother during the labor period and once to the baby 72 hours after the birth. [AIDS Action] While the cost of 8$ dollars makes it a preferred treatment against MTCT the glaring fact is that even this treatment is inaccessible for a vast majority…