Two-thirds of all people infected with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa, although this region contains little more than 10% of the world’s population. AIDS has caused immense human suffering in the continent. The most obvious effect of this crisis has been illness and death, but the impact of the epidemic has certainly not been confined to the health sector; households, schools, workplaces and economies have also been badly affected.
As the HIV prevalence of a country rises, the strain placed on its hospitals is likely to increase. In sub-Saharan Africa, people with HIV-related diseases occupy more than half of all hospital beds. Government-funded research in South Africa has suggested that, on average, HIV-positive patients stay in hospital four times longer than other patients. Hospitals are struggling to cope, especially in poorer African countries where there are often too few beds available. This shortage results in people being admitted only in the later stages of illness, reducing their chances of recovery. While AIDS is causing an increased demand for health services, large numbers of healthcare professionals are being directly affected by the epidemic. Botswana, for example, lost 17% of its healthcare workforce due to AIDS between 1999 and 2005. A study in one region of Zambia found that 40% of midwives were HIV-positive. Healthcare workers are already scarce in most African countries. Excessive workloads, poor pay and migration to richer countries are among the factors contributing to this shortage. Although the recent increase in the provision of antiretroviral drugs delay has brought hope to many in Africa, it has also put increased strain on healthcare workers. Providing antiretroviral treatment to everyone who needs it requires more time and training than is currently available in most countries.
The toll of HIV and AIDS on households can be very severe. Although no part of the population is unaffected by HIV, it is often the...
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