Africa’s battle against HIV must continue
While HIV is no longer the threat to global health that it was a few decades ago, the virus is still a menace in many African countries. In fact, silently and mostly unnoticed, it has been spreading through the continent primarily through unsafe sex and drug use. Public servants need to be at the forefront of such campaigns, and by getting tested, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni helped raise awareness of the virus. According to the AIDS Agencies operating in different parts of the continent, some, 2,000,000 residents across the continent are considered to be at a high risk of becoming infected with HIV and Sub-Saharan Africa has the most serious epidemic in the world. Two years ago, roughly 25 million people were living with the virus accounting for nearly 70 percent of the global total. In the same year, there were an estimated 1.6 million new HIV infections and 1.2 million AIDS-related deaths according to World Health Organization statistics. The epidemic has had widespread social and economic consequences. Blood tests are critical in detecting HIV infections, not only so that people can receive treatment, but also to prevent the disease from spreading.
To tackle the problem at the root, African countries must stop or lower the number of people using illicit drugs, especially needle sharing and also educate the population on benefits of having safer sex. Drug use, particularly among the youth, is spreading fast and has become a much bigger threat to society. Schools, religious institutions and families must work together to ensure that young people in the continent do not fall into this trap. Researchers say they are concerned about complacency and that unprotected sex between casual male partners is a leading contributor to the increase. The younger population in Africa was not around in the early days of the AIDS epidemic when there was a large fear campaign and that could be the reason why they’re not so involved in the community that has such fear entrenched in their lives. In most cases, people are living for several years without knowing they are HIV-positive in Africa. If people wait a long time before getting diagnosed, or if they do not start treatment once diagnosed, it is not as easy to recover. It’s essential that everybody who is engaging in behaviors that might put them at risk get tested on a relatively frequent basis, according to an Australian expert working in Botswana. She told me during our email exchange that about 40 per cent of all HIV-positive cases could be attributed to unsafe drug injecting with Southern African countries being the most affected with drug menace. The middle aged researcher who hails from Melbourne, added that the communities in Africa needs to get serious about what is at stake if warnings are not heeded.