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Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Aids & South Africa

One of South Africa's greatest problems is AIDS. Not a few thousand people infected but millions. The first two AIDS cases were identified in South Africa in 1983, by 1986 there were 46 identified cases. Most of these were homosexuals. Today the disease is mostly heterosexual. In 1990 only 1% of the population was infected. In 1991 South Africa's northern borders with the rest of Africa were opened, after being basically a no go area for many decades for South Africans. The N1 highway which runs from Cape Town in the south to Mussena on our northern border, and from there connects to roads leading north through Zimbawe to Zambia and further, became known as the AIDS highway.

In 2009 the number of people infected with  HIV/AIDS had risen to 5.6 million. Some people dispute this figure and say it's more like 6.6 million.

In 2009 310,000 people died of AIDS. The percentage of infection had risen 17.8% for people between the ages of 15 - 49.

One in three women, 33%, between the ages of 25 - 29 were infected with HIV/AIDS.

One in four men between the ages of 30 - 34, 25%, were infected with HIV/AIDS.

Three hundred and thirty thousand children under the age of 15 were infected with HIV/AIDS.

There were 1.9 million AIDS orphans, some say 3.5 million.

Forty thousand children are infected with HIV/AIDS each year. Most of this mother to child transmission.

There were 79,000 child headed households in 2009, where both parents had succumbed  to HIV/AIDS.

Thirty seven percent of those infected were on ARV's (anti retro viral's).

Twenty eight percent of people in the world, living with both HIV/AIDS & TB are in South Africa. TB in SA is highly drug resistant.

In KwaZuluNatal 37% of pregnant women tested positive for HIV/AIDS. Today in 2011 some parts of northern KwaZuluNatal the infection rate is 40%.

This map shows the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Starting from the north moving south the % gets higher and higher.

This map of South Africa Shows most of the Major cities, also give the population and life expectancy of 49 years. In 1994 the average life expectancy was 60+ years. Not so high in Western terms but much higher than the rest of sub Saharan Africa. The name Messina of the town on the northern border of Zimbawe was changed some years ago to Mussina.

One of the many forms of AIDS awareness campaigns initiated by the government.

All these figures above are just statistics, none of them tell of the suffering caused by this disease. In our school there are two children that are HIV positive, both in grade 3 and both on ARV's. there might be more but we are not aware of them. Two of our cleaning staff have full blown AIDS and are also on ARV's. One of our groundsmen has lost 10 brothers and sisters to AIDS. There 11 children have now become his responsibility.

Saturdays have become official funeral days in South Africa. On not one of the thousands of death certificates, issued each year for people who have passed away of AIDS, does the word AIDS appear. Only the secondary causes of death are ever given, TB, heart disease, pneumonia, etc. so people live in denial regarding the disease. One our local funeral parlour's reckons that on a quiet Saturday they bury 30 people, usually it's about a hundred. Cities and towns all over are running out of cemetery space. Most Africans will have nothing to do with cremation.

When it comes to AIDS orphans it's usually the aged grandparents who bear the burden of caring for these children. Often there is no one and the children must fend for themselves. 

The economic and social implications are enormous. The economically active members of society are those worse affected. It is said that if it were not for AIDS our economic growth could be 1% higher per annum than it is now. Many children grow up without adult supervision and the transfer of social and other values one learns from your parents. 

Only God can rectify this situation. None of man's plans seem to be working.


Kay L. Davies said...

These facts are devastating to read about, Phillip. It is hard for a Canadian to absorb the statistics, never mind imagine the suffering, and to know man-made solutions aren't working.
All we can do is pray.
— K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Anonymous said...

Truly dreadful – ‘Only God can rectify this situation. None of man's plans seem to be working’

I think it is a bit of a cop out... AIDS remains a disease that can easily be controlled, even eradicated, by a change in behaviour. A few years ago some friend and I contributed towards the cost of an ex-girlfriend of mine going out to South Africa as part of a HIV prevention education drive. It was with a well known charity. My friend spent a year there, in both rural and urban areas, and she noted that despite the real effort to education, many just didn’t want to hear!

It is the will to change behaviour – either by sticking to monogamy or the use of barrier methods of sexual contact – that would wipe out AIDS. It is curious that in the 1980s when AIDS was seen as a gay plague – how many Christians were happy to voice their condemnation of ‘gay culture’ etc. Funny how these voices have become quieter and quieter as it is seen that AIDS is no longer a gay problem (tho’ I suspect younger gay (and heterosexuals, to a lesser degree) have become rather blasé about the risks of HIV and the need to change behaviour – as the rising HIV figure in London where I live in the UK, demonstrates).

It is also curious to hold a map of religious dominance in Africa (see: at the side of the AIDS map of African and a strange correlation emerges. In the main, the more Christian the country, the higher its HIV infection rate – the more Muslim the lower. Which says something about the sexual behaviour of individuals related to the dominant religion of the country. So perhaps God does have something to do with it...