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The effect of AIDS on Africa (1)

By Rebekah Lightfoot

The greatest suffering the world has seen began with the AIDS epidemic on the African continent. Greater than the devastation caused by the 2006 South Pacific Tsunami, more numerous are the deaths than that of the black plague, more daunting than the explosion of the A-Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the AIDS epidemic has no foreseeable end. Each day thousands die from the disease without proper medical treatment. Families are torn apart. Children are left to suffer and die from the disease alone, their parents already swept away by the virus. How do we help? What can we do, half a world away, to help end the suffering on this continent?

A continent ripping apart at the seems, engulfed in war and famine- We see these headlines everyday. Many people turn their backs on this continent and its suffering calling it a lost cause. Those people are wrong. There is hope today. There is hope for Africa right now.

AIDS has horrific immediate consequences, but through the suffering can come positive outcomes. The world must pull together to help bring a liberal education to every child in Africa. Education is one of the first steps in ending the destruction caused by the virus and it will also help Africans begin to help themselves. It will help to lift the burden of poverty, to provide knowledge about the disease, the preventable disease, that is afflicting the continent.

You can help. I can help. We can all help by having hope for this continent, by voicing to our governments that this continent and its people are a priority to us as citizens of the world and by choosing to love others.
The effect of AIDS on Africa (2)

By Chukwuma John

Young people are the age group most severely affected by AIDS in South Africa, with the largest proportion of HIV infections in the country occurring amongst people between the ages of 15 and 24. LoveLife, the most prominent HIV prevention campaign to be carried out in South Africa, has targeted this age group specifically and attempted to integrate HIV prevention messages into their culture. It was launched in 1999, with the aim of reducing rates of teenage pregnancy, HIV and sexually transmitted infections among young South Africans. The campaign attempts to market sexual responsibility through the media as if it were a brand. It also operates a network of telephone lines, clinics and youth centres that provide sexual health facilities, as well as an outreach service that travels to remote rural areas, to reach young people who are not in the educational system. In terms of funding, loveLife has become the largest campaign aimed at HIV prevention in the world.

LoveLife has been criticised in some circles for sexualising the epidemic, and, although it may have been very effective, the actual difference it has made to reductions in new HIV infections is very difficult to measure. Some AIDS activists feel that the campaign is poorly targeted and ineffective.19 In December 2005, loveLife suffered a major set back when the Global Fund, one of its main financial backers, withdrew funding, stating that the campaign 'was deemed to not have sufficiently addressed weaknesses in its implementation'.20

Although heterosexual sex is the most common route of HIV transmission in South Africa, the rate of infection amongst men who have sex with men is rising. While homosexuality has become much more acceptable in South Africa in recent years, the subject is still taboo in most communities and discrimination is common.

The first gay men's association in South Africa was GASA 6010, which later became the Triangle Project. In 1984, a counselling and medical service run by this organisation began to carry out AIDS prevention initiatives in bars and clubs. Groups such as the AIDS Support and Education Trust (ASET) in Cape Town continue to target gay men with AIDS prevention campaigns, but there is still a lack of information available in gay communities. The Government has been accused of failing to address the impact of HIV among gay men, and nationwide prevention schemes such as loveLife have been criticised for not including any information about sex between men in their campaigns. Medical clinics and school prevention programmes have also failed to provide information on this issue.

The Government has argued that existing national prevention schemes are relevant to people of all sexual orientations. But many non-Governmental organisations (NGOs) argue that they have been unfairly left with the task of providing gay men with information about HIV prevention, without any support from the Government.

The Triangle Project estimated in 2003 that between 12 and 30 percent of homosexual men in South Africa were living with HIV.21 A study conducted in Durban in 2006 suggested that the HIV prevalence among homosexuals was 33%. It also found that condom use among this group was erratic or non-existent.22

In 2001 the Government set up the AIDS Communications Team (ACT) to develop and implement a two-year media campaign intended to educate people about the dangers of HIV. The campaign was called 'Khomanani' which means 'caring together', and produced material in several languages.

Prior to ACT and loveLife, a number of other prevention campaigns were carried out. In 1994, 'The Soul City Project' was started by a number of different funders to educate people about HIV through radio, print and television, using dramas and soap operas to promote its message. Between 1998 and 2000, the 'Beyond Awareness' campaign concentrated on informing young people through the media.
The effect of AIDS on Africa (3)

By Zilla Vanilla

Talking about the effect of AIDS on Africa is like talking about the effect of global warming on the arctic ice cap. You don't experience the full force of the effects until you're in the thick of it and realise that, probably, the tipping point has already been reached and the cascade is unstoppable.

When you stand in front of a giant glacier and watch it crash in to the sea, the inevitable catostrophe sends shivers down your spine. Walk into any government hospital in South Africa today and you get the exact same effect. Chilling. Walk by the myriad of fresh graves in any graveyard in South Africa and you would be excused for thinking the country is at war. Maybe it is. The effect of AIDS crosses all boundaries. It is redefining culture, economics, religion, political stability, education, health and healthcare.

Not only are Africans faced with the dilemma of having to face up to the fact that their traditions are no longer protecting them against evil but their very definition of intimate relationships is also being redefined. A woman is getting AIDS from her husband, he got it from a far off city where prostitutes and shebeens have been a way of life for a long time. Women are giving it to their children. Who else is supposed to nurture and care for their children? Who else can take on that role. No-one, nature has us up against the wall.

Inevitably the economics of any country ravished by AIDS will suffer. The very workforce, the drive of the economy is dying, and with it competition, consumerism and all efficiency. South Africa's saving grace thus far has been the large amount of "reserves" not partaking in the economy at all. A country with an unemployment rate of 25% and no doll has a few willing hands to spare. Not for long, though. In certain areas the shortfall is already being experienced.

The education sector is badly understaffed with most schools not running at full capacity. This has a direct effect on the quality of the country's future workforce and thus on it's competitiveness in the global arena. An individual's education is also the only thing that gives him/her the power to choose a different way of life than the well-known road of poverty.

Not only is the healthcare system being stretched to the limit by the influx of new patients, many healthcare workers themselves are infected, on treatment, dead or dying. 1000 People die of AIDS in South Africa daily. The recruitment cannot keep up with losses because few of the unemployed masses have the right qualifications to work in healthcare. Many basic nursing duties in primary level clinics are already being carried out by volunteers with no training receiving no payment. This, of course increases their chance for infection too. The devastating effect of TB in conjunction with AIDS falls beyond the scope of this article.

Religion and traditional beliefs also have to be redefined. Many know of the furor caused by the spread of the superstitious belief that raping a virgin will cure you from AIDS. Many of South Africa's girls lose their virginity through rape, not some. The deputy prime minister's stint in court when he proclaimed that having a shower will protect him from any infection didn't improve the world's view on SA's arrogance and ignorance. Women need to prove fertility before being offered marriage, how can condoms then be a viable option for them? Many people still go to the local sangoma or church for miracle cures before going to the hospital, inevitably arriving "at death's door" due to procrastination, leading to the widespread belief that hospitals are the cause of death.

Many government policies directly oppose HIV prevention strategies. An impoverished woman cannot get a state subsidy for herself, only for her children. Her children only get grants up to the age of 14. Now, how in their right minds are these young girls going to abstain from trying to reproduce? Furthermore, the state pays a subsidy for AIDS but not for HIV infection. It also pays a subsidy for active TB which stops once treatment stops. Now, it is understandable that the government needs to draw the line somewhere because there is only so much money available in the national treasure chest. But to the man om the street it is pretty obvious that he is being paid to be sick.

Not only is government going about the management and prevention of AIDS the wrong way, it also started much too late and is dragging it's feet unneccesarily. Government had to be taken to court by the TAC to be forced to start antiretroviral therapy for pregnant women, prisoners and finally the general populace. It does seem like an easy equation to let the people who are the biggest burden on government subsidies and healthcare and invariably then the country's economic stability rather just die. On the other hand, it also sounds alot like genocide if the health minister backs up her decisions by maintaining the disease simply doesn't exist.

The future for AIDS in South Africa looks rosy. The future for the people of South Africa? The Chinese have a saying- may you live in interesting times. It's up to you to figure out if it's a blessing or a curse. The battle against AIDS happens on a one by one basis. You make your decisions. You choose. You choose who you sleep with, you choose who to trust with your health, you choose to take the medication offered to you, you choose which charity to support, you choose to pay your taxes, you choose for whom you vote. Remember, you choose.
The effect of AIDS on Africa (4)

By Anja Merret

During the Nationalist Party, or white government, days in South Africa, the only time the country made it into the international newspapers was when apartheid based atrocities and anti-apartheid campaigns were reported. It used to annoy the government immensely as they felt that the good' stuff was being overlooked.

President Mbeki, and his apostles, must be feeling the same at this moment. The front page of the Independent in the UK says it all. A President in denial, a nation denied hope' is the headline. The article is in response to the firing of deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge.

Ms Madlala-Routledge had worked hard to obtain some form of credibility for the government. She had been outspoken about new treatment campaigns to ensure medication was available to infected people and co-authored a five year treatment action plan. She had visited hospitals and pointed out how bad the health services were in some areas such as the Eastern Cape.

Mbeki and his Minister of Health Tshabalala-Msimang have been ridiculed by the world for their denial of the epidemic. Mbeki ascribed to the theory that HIV and AIDS were not linked and Tshabalala-Msimang maintained that eating beetroot and garlic were more useful than anti-retrovirals which she said were harmful to people. This is the country where coffins are made from cardboard because the wooden ones can't be made quickly enough to fill demand.

The Deputy was fired, according to the South African press, for having attended an AIDS conference in Spain. It was felt that this was wasting tax payers' money. Besides which this trip had apparently not been authorised. One might remember a Christmas a season ago when the Deputy President used tax payers' money to use the government jet to take herself and a couple of buddies off to a shopping holiday in Dubai. She certainly didn't get fired for that unauthorised trip.

Which all points to the fact that the Deputy Minister's firing had really very little to do with health issues. It has to do with political power. Mbeki has, during his years as president, surrounded himself with people whom he feels comfortable with and who have shown him total loyalty. These select few will remain within his orbit whether they do the job or not. The Deputy Health Minister, by undermining the power base of the Health Minister had to go.

Health Minister Tshabalala-Msimang is one of these apostles. She could decide to hand out arsenic pills at hospitals and she would not be fired. I suppose giving people beetroot and garlic to cure HIV/AIDS is about the same.

Political power is particularly relevant as the succession debate to Mbeki's rule hots up. The issue centers around the new leadership of the ANC which will be determined shortly. At the same time, the head of the ANC is automatically appointed as president of the country. According to the constitution, President Mbeki may only serve two terms and he is completing his second term now.

This is not really a serious issue. One needs to remember that the ANC acquired over two thirds of the vote during the last general elections. This means the ANC is able to change the constitution. It could very well mean that Mbeki is padding his supporter base in preparation for re-election. He has indicated that he wishes to stand for the ANC leadership.

The consequences of the political maneuvers being played out are dire though. The public health system is falling apart at a rapid rate, and not only with respect to HIV/AIDS treatment. Reports on the state of public hospitals are dire. According to one Doctor quoted in the Independent, people are dying in the queues.

The absolute tragedy is that South Africa has money in the bank to improve the health system. Not only did Finance Minister Trevor Manuel submit a surplus budget in February this year, but today's South African version of the Independent states that the taxman is heading for another big tax bonanza.

Never a more appropriate saying than the one that states that Rome burns while the politicians fiddle.
The effect of AIDS on Africa (5)

By Mercy Jacobs

Agricultural productivity in zambia is being hampered by the rapid spred of AIDS there . it have been noted that THE most important agricultural resources as the labor of farmers and their helpers, but much of thsi labour force is being lost to aids ,when farmers die ,there is reduced labour on farms and consequently production levels dwindle drastically .this affects household food security ,leading to the escalating levels of poverty ,the solution is for farmers in zambia to restrict their sexual relations to their own partners .by promoting good morals, AIDS problem can be controlled .


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