The HIV/AIDS Epidemic
In South Africa
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is one of many infectious diseases that plague the world today. According to the 2007 AIDS epidemic update put out by The United Nations Joint Program on HIV/AIDS (UNIADS) there were approximately 2.1 million AIDS related deaths and 33.2 million people infected with HIV world wide (UNAIDS/WHO Working Group, 2007). Despite its abundant resources and its well-developed financial sectors, South Africa has the largest HIV infected population in the world with approximately 5.7 million of its 44 million citizens living with HIV/AIDS (Global Health Facts, 2007). These 5.7 million cases alone account for over 28% of the worlds HIV cases (UNAIDS/WHO Working Group, June 2008) This epidemic has gradually escalated to such an extent that it is now causing approximately 350,000 deaths a year (UNAIDS/WHO Working Group, July 2008) which is nearly 1,000 people, including children, in South Africa dying every day due to AIDS. As can be expected, there are numerous amount of factors that have contributed to the ever-increasing severity of South Africa's AIDS epidemic. This paper will venture to explain and rationalize these overwhelming statistics that have unfortunately begun to characterize South Africa by examining: The etiology of HIV/AIDS
The breakdown of statistical data surrounding the AIDS epidemic in South Africa The historical context of AIDS in South Africa
The stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS in South Africa The health care systems represented in South Africa
The testing, treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS in South Africa The future for AIDS in South Africa.
Before one can dive into how HIV and AIDS affect a population, one must first begin to understand the disease itself. Even among educated groups the terms HIV and AIDS are often misused interchangeably. The fact is that HIV and AIDS are closely related to one another, yet two separate entities. HIV is the virus that acts as the primary etiologic agent of AIDS, while AIDS itself is the medical condition of an acquired immune deficiency. Infection by HIV does not mean that one has acquired AIDS; it means that the risk of developing it is higher. There are many people in the world today who are HIV positive and do not have AIDS simply because they have access to treatment and health care, those who do not eventually become carriers of the disease. There are also many misunderstandings surrounding how HIV is contracted. A few of which are: being around or sharing a meal with someone who has HIV, sitting on a toilet seat that has been infected with AIDS, and being bit or stung by an insect that has been infected with AIDS. All of these are falsehoods that do nothing but fuel discrimination and segregation. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the only way one is likely to contract HIV is through unprotected sex with someone who has HIV, sharing needles with someone who has HIV, being birthed by an HIV positive woman, or having an infected blood transfusion which is highly unlikely in most developed countries (CDC, 2007). In-order to grasp a better understanding of how HIV can be contracted and develop into AIDS, one must take a closer look into the actual pathophysiology of HIV and AIDS. HIV is a retrovirus, meaning instead of carrying genetic material via double stranded DNA it is carried by enveloped single stranded RNA that in-turn uses the method of reverse transcriptase to turn its viral RNA into virally infected DNA. HIV is also very limited to what types of cells in the body it can attack. A type of cell that plays a key roll in how HIV infects the body and causes AIDS is the CD4+ Helper T cells or CD4+ for short. CD4+ cells are cells in the immune system whose job is to recognize foreign antigens in the body and activate antibody-producing B-lymphocytes to help...
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