Geographical Impact of AIDS on Zimbabwe

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is defined as a retrovirus that makes our immune system fail. HIV occurs by the transfer of blood, semen, vaginal fluid or breast milk and not, according to a common misbelief, through saliva. This transmission can happen in the form of anal, vaginal or oral sex, blood transfusion, contaminated hypdermic needles or exchange between a mother and a baby during pregnancthe frequncy of their occrrence, it is very hard to put an end to the spreading of this virus.

HIV causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Virus (AIDS), the deadliest pandemic of the 20th century that was only discovered and named 25 years ago. AIDS is considered as a global problem. It started off in a gay community in San Francisco, US and spread quickly all over the world, especially in the English-speaking countries such as Australia and the UK. By the year 1995, there was information on HIV cases in every country in the world. Yet, about 2/3 of (40 million) all the AIDS cases today occur in Africa, more specifically Sub-Saharan Africa.

In some countries, the percentage of the infected population is over 30. About 2. 2 million people have died of AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa only. HIV has become less of a problem in the EMDC’s in Europe and North America, since large amounts of money out of the national budget have been spent on prevention campaigns and raising people’s awareness of HIV and AIDS. As the disease started from gay communities, the Australian government held many safe-sex campaigns targeted to those communities, which resulted in a decline in the percentage of people infected.

In the 21st century, the spreading of HIV and will be a burning issue in mostly Africa and South-East Asia – the overpopulated and underfinanced regions of the world. In Zimbabwe in South Africa, 20% out of its 13 million population has HIV. About 565 people get infected every day. Yet even such statistics don’t make AIDS the biggest problem in the eyes of the government. Since Zimbabwe is suffering from a 1 000% inflation and prices increasing daily, the people of Zimbabwe find it harder to keep themselves from starving than keep themselves HIV-negative.

As said by a Zimbabwean doctor, “Put simply, people are dying of AIDS before they can starve to death”. Since AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease, the largest number of infections appears in the age group of 15 to 49 as that’s the time for top sexual activity. It has caused the average life expectancy in Zimbabwe to drop from 56 to 37 – that is nearly 20 years. People die in their best working years, which has a weakening effect on the country’s economy. People in the rural areas who fall ill or take care of ill family members put their children to work on the farms.

Usually they stop selling their products and develop subsistence farms. This means practically no income and surviving totally on one’s own. What is more, a large percentage of doctors and teachers die of AIDS. That causes increase in the country’s literacy level and damages the availability of (free) medical help. Also, many people with medical education choose to leave the country, because it’s there’s a huge chance of getting infected and they don’t find the salaries satisfactory. As a result, hospitals lack workforce and patients won’t get proper treatment.

Due to limited opportunities in the country, people (usually men) go to bigger cities to find work and support their families. But as they return, they do not only bring money and food, they also bring HIV to their spouses (wives). That’s how AIDS migrates from cities to the countryside. As the average life expectancy is actually under 40 years, a lot of children become orphans every day. From there, unless they have family members to stay with, they have no other choice than go on the city streets. It might result in becoming HIV-positive through prostitution.

Therefore, a new generation of infected people is growing. Sometimes, these kids won’t live long enough to go to school, therefore school attendance is also dropping. There are large social and economic gaps between men and women in Zimbabwe. Women are usually less educated and have smaller income, if any. About 58% of HIV-positive adults are women and an even bigger number, 80% of women aged 15-24 are infected. That proposes a huge threat to newborn babies and the next generation overall. Zimbabwe, being economically and politically fragmented, has a hard time fighting AIDS.

Although prevention campaigns and treatments have been scaled, there are several problems such as low human resources and a small budget. The treatment Zimbabwean people receive is usually a temporary protection against opportunistic infections, it won’t save a life. For now, many AIDS patients are turning to traditional healers, who advocate the use of herbs they say help relieve symptoms associated with AIDS. Some of these healers have packaged these remedies in capsule form and sell them at modest prices.

There’s also a program that is being led by people who help HIV-positive families cope with the disease. Specially trained counsellors, called “care givers,” visit the families and teach them about the basic health and nutritional needs of those living with AIDS. The target group of all AIDS prevention campaigns is actually young people between the age of 15 and 24. It used to be a taboo in the Zimbabwean society to talk about sex, but now discussions and giving sex education are actually being encouraged and approved of.

In conclusion, the situation is past its negative peak in Zimbabwe. As long as international help is provided in cooperation with government policies and educational and medical progress, a decline should occur in the spreading of AIDS. It will take so much more to put an end to AIDS in Africa in terms of time and finances, but some goals have already been accomplished. And by that I don’t mean simply government and their actions, but also the people and their mentality.

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