Health Disparities

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Abstract

South Africa has the highest number of people infected with HIV each year. This paper examines HIV health disparities between South Africa and the United States from a historical standpoint. The history of South Africa is essential to understanding how and why HIV became so widespread. History of both the South African community and its smaller ethnically distinct subsets are explored regarding their respective impact on individual health. Government policies and economic factors playing a role in the United States and South Africa’s government contributing to this issue were also explored. Recommendations for remediating the HIV problem are discussed.

The Issue: HIV/AIDS Health Disparity
Although there are many theories over the origin of HIV, its initial history in the United States and in South Africa ignites simultaneously. Nevertheless, overtime the prevalence of HIV in the United States as compared to that of Africa differed sharply. There is a significant disparity; there are 22.5 million South Africans living with HIV/AIDS, as compared to1.5 million HIV/AIDS cases in the United States. (WHO, 2011)

Many factors attribute to health disparities, these factors may exist within the same culture, as well as between different cultures. Historically age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status as well as the sociopolitical systems are significant characteristics that determine the differences in health outcomes between populations. Specifically, these factors help reveal the origin leading to the HIV/AIDS health disparities between the United States and South Africa. A government’s policies constitute -a pivotal driving force behind nation’s economic and sociopolitical systems. Indeed the definitive role that a government oftentimes plays in the establishment of medical practice parameters can be easily overlooked in efforts to understand how a particular disease impacts geographically distinct populations. Medical practice parameters, which determine how particular diseases are diagnosed and treated, are set at the world, national and local government levels. When considered in this way, governmental policies can have a primary role in what appear to be differences in the prevalence rates of disease between populations originated from distinct nations. In the sections that follow, the interplay of more commonly cited factors as well as that of governmental policy is explored to shed greater light on the occurrence of HIV, one of the most devastating diseases of the 21st century. Help reveal the origin leading to the HIV/AIDS health disparities between the United States and South Africa.

Historical Perspective
According to AVERT (Averting HIV and AIDS) an international charity organization, since the diagnosis of the first case of HIV in 1982 infection rates in South Africa have steadily increased causing an epidemic (AVERT, 2011). The historical events that contribute to South Africa’s epidemic emerge from their socioeconomic and political system, specifically the apartheid, which officially began after South Africa’s general election of 1948. The apartheid was beneficial economically insofar as it provided cheap labor for farmers; furthermore White South African’s were fearful employment competition that would occur with Black South Africans as they moved into the urban areas. The apartheid is significant because not only did it permit segregation between races, but it also focused on segregation of ethnic groups within the African population. The outcome of the apartheid was that it destroyed well-established communities and left behind a dispersion of people from their original homeland (Sachs, 2000). By removing Black South African families from urbanized areas to rural areas this affected how they would travel to work, access medical care, education, and other public services, and ultimately everything that was provided to the South African’s...
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