The rise of sickness in Africa today is mainly caused by HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). AIDS is the number one killer in African society today. As many as 5.7 million people were living with HIV and AIDS in South Africa in 2009, more than in any country. It is believed in 2008 over 250,000 South Africans died from AIDS. Almost one-in-three women, aged 25-29, and over a quarter of men aged 30-34, are living with HIV.
The virus is passed from one person to another person through blood-to-blood and sexual contact. HIV damages the immune system, the part of the body that fights infection. Eventually the body becomes so weak that diseases and infections begin to attack the body. As these conditions worse a person is diagnosed with AIDS. HIV can be treated but not cured.
The impact of AIDS epidemic is reflected in dramatic change in South Africa’s mortality rate. The overall number of annual deaths increased sharply from 1997 when 316,559 people died, to 2006 when 206,184 people died. This rise is not necessarily due to solely to HIV and AIDS, but it is young adults, the age group that is most affected by AIDS, who is particularly shouldering the burden of increasing mortality rate. This is a strong indicator that AIDS is a major, if not the principal; factor in the overall rising number of deaths.
South Africa HIV and AIDS epidemic has had a devastating on children in a number of ways there was an estimated 280,000 under -15s living with HIV in 2007, a figure that almost doubled since 2001. HIV is transmitted predominantly heterosexually between couples, with mother-to-child transmission being the other main infection route. The national transmission rate of HIV from mother to child is 11%. In most instances the virus was transmitted from the child’s mother. Consequently, the HIV infected child is born into a family where the virus may have already had a severe impact on health, income, productivity and the ability to care for each other.
The loss of a parent not only has an immense emotional impact on the children but for most families can spell financial hardship. A Mother to child transmission of HIV accounts for the vast majority of children who are infected with HIV. If a woman already has HIV then her baby may become infected during pregnancy or delivery. HIV can also be transmitted through breast milk. Aside from mother to child transmission, some children are exposed to HIV in medial settings; for instance through needles that have not been sterilized or blood transfusion where infected blood is used.
In some countries children have been infected with HIV through sexual abuse and rape. This is a significant problem in many areas. For instance, in parts of Africa, the myth that HIV can be cured through sex with a virgin has led to a large number of rapes - sometimes of very young children – by infected men. In some cases young children are coerced into sex work, which can put them at a very high risk of becoming infected with HIV. Once children are infected with HIV, they face a high chance of illness or death, unless they can successfully be provided with treatment.
There are two main things that you can do to help families with cope with the burden of HIV. The first is to provide treatment to family members who are infected. Although antiretroviral drugs are...