World AIDS Day 2014: Social media role in spreading AIDS

Posted on December 1, 2014 01:27 pm

Social media is partly to blame for the spread of HIV and AIDS in Africa, an expert recently told me.There has been a more than average of five per cent jump in reported HIV cases across the continent during the past year. A Health researcher working in South African country of Botswana says there are more than 1000 people in South Australia alone living with HIV and about 50 new diagnoses each year. As an expert on the history of HIV and AIDS, she says social media and “meet-up” apps on phones are making it easier for people to have casual sex with strangers. Social media is a bit of a double-edged sword in her opinion informed by research findings as it presents a challenge in that it allows people to hook up for anonymous sex more easily. Having sex with people that they don’t know anything about, who they don’t know how to necessarily communicate with or be maybe particularly honest with can lead to risky behaviors and possible infections. Statistics shows that every day more than 5,700 people contract HIV which is nearly 240 every hour and 1.5 million people died from AIDS. Since the beginning of the pandemic, close to 78 million people have contracted HIV and nearly to 39 million have died of AIDS-related causes.

On the plus side, social media is being used by HIV educators in really innovative ways to reach people who might not otherwise get messages about AIDS.¬†There is no doubt that the upward trend in AIDS cases is mostly happening in the gay and marginalized communities especially in Africa. No doubt drug use is also encouraging unsafe sex and contributing to the spread of the disease. This is something people didn’t really have to deal with in the early days when HIV infection through drug use was generally from sharing needles and syringes. The real threats these days are the ‘recreational’ drugs which get people into euphoric states and lower their inhibitions. Globally, there more than 35 million people are now living with HIV with 3.2 million are under the age of 15.In 2013, an estimated 2.1 million people were newly infected with HIV and close to 240,000 were under the age of 15. Only close to 12.9 million people living with HIV 37% of the total had access to antiretroviral therapy according to World Health Organization statistics. Today, is the World HIV AIDS day and is a timely reminder of the need for more work to tackle the spread of the infection. In Africa which has less than 15% of the total population of the World, account for close to 70% of those who live with HIV and are dying of AIDS globally.

Contador Harrison