HIV AS A NATIONAL DISASTER
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. Although access to antiretroviral treatment is starting to lessen the toll of AIDS, fewer than half of Africans who need treatment are receiving it. The impact of AIDS will remain severe for many years to come. The impact on the health sector In all heavily affected countries the AIDS epidemic is adding additional pressure on the health sector. As the epidemic matures, the demand for care for those living with HIV rises, as does the toll of AIDS on health workers. The effect on hospitals
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. 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. Health care workers
While AIDS is causing an increased demand for health services, large numbers of healthcare professionals are being directly affected by the epidemic. 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 (which significantly delay the progression from HIV to AIDS) 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 impact on households
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 poorest sectors of society that are most vulnerable to the epidemic and for whom the consequences are most severe. In many cases, the presence of AIDS causes the household to dissolve, as parents die and children are sent to relatives for care and upbringing. A study in rural South Africa suggested that households in which an adult had died from AIDS were four times more likely to dissolve than those in which no deaths had occurred. Much happens before this dissolution takes place: AIDS strips families of their assets and income earners, further impoverishing the poor.
Individuals who would otherwise provide a household with income are prevented from working – either because they are ill with AIDS themselves or because they are caring for another sick family member. Such a situation is likely to have repercussions for every member of the family. Children may be forced to abandon their education and in some cases women may be forced to turn to sex work .This can lead to a higher risk of HIV transmission, which further exacerbates the situation. Basic necessities
A study in South Africa found that poor households coping with members who are sick from HIV or AIDS were reducing spending on necessities even further. The most likely expenses to be cut were clothing (21%), electricity (16%) and other services (9%). Falling incomes forced about 6% of households to reduce the amount they spent on food and almost half of households reported having insufficient food at times. Food production
The AIDS epidemic adds to food...
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