The African AIDS epidemic: a history

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What is HIV?

Studies of thousands of people have revealed that most people infected with HIV carry the virus for years before enough damage is done to the immune system for AIDS to develop. On 21 November , a new UN report said more than three-quarters of Aids-related deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa and South Africa was officially the country with the highest prevalence of HIV in the world.

Women face a greater risk of HIV infection. On average in South Africa there are three women infected with HIV for every two men who are infected.

While the world looks away

The difference is greatest in the age group, where three young women for every one young man are infected. One of the most significant damages caused by this disease is the number of children orphaned as a result of AIDS. Obtaining accurate statistics on the number of children orphaned is problematic.

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This figure is higher than for any other country. However, it is estimated that Zimbabwe has 1 children orphaned due to AIDS among a total population of fewer than 13 million.

History of AIDS

How does South Africa celebrate World Aids day? Therefore, researchers and statisticians use the prevalence of HIV among groups whose status is known such as pregnant women attending antenatal classes to work out the likely prevalence rate in the general population. They also "project" how many people are likely to become infected and die in future, based on what is already known about infection and mortality rates.

The HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa

Many factors contribute to the spread of HIV. These include: poverty; inequality and social instability; high levels of sexually transmitted infections; the low status of women; sexual violence; high mobility particularly migrant labour ; limited and uneven access to quality medical care; a history of poor leadership in the response to the epidemic and society leaders dying and leaving a generation of children growing up without the care and role models they will normally have.

This history of the African AIDS epidemic is a much-needed, accessibly written historical account of the most serious epidemiological catastrophe of modern times. While Mbeki attributed the causes to poverty and exploitation, others have looked to distinctive sexual systems practiced in African cultures and communities. John Iliffe stresses historical sequence. He argues that Africa has had the worst epidemic because the disease was established in the general population before anyone knew the disease existed.

The African AIDS epidemic: a history | Reviews in History

HIV evolved with extraordinary speed and complexity, and because that evolution took place under the eyes of modern medical research scientists, Iliffe has been able to write a history of the virus itself that is probably unique among accounts of human epidemic diseases. In giving the African experience a historical shape, Iliffe has written one of the most important books of our time.

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