Aids Orphans: The 3rd Wave

HIV/AIDS prevention & care

The HIV/AIDS pandemic remains a global disaster. Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) harbors nearly 65% of the estimated 40.3 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the world in 2005. While general awareness about HIV and its causes is almost universal in most of SSA, transmission has not abated.

According to AMREF (African Medical and Research Foundation):

“Without doubt one of the greatest crises facing contemporary and future Africa is the fate of a rapidly increasing population of orphaned children, who represent the third shock wave of the AIDS pandemic. The first wave was triggered by a rising incidence of HIV infections followed by the second wave, AIDS deaths. It has been estimated that in less than a decade there will be 42 million AIDS orphans in Africa.”

2005 saw yet 4.9 million new infections in the world, 3.2 million (65%) of them in SSA, home to under 10% of the world population. This was the largest number of new infections in a single year since the beginning of the pandemic. Among marginalized communities, new infection rates are even higher.

The vulnerability of women in SSA is evidenced by the rising infection rates that have surpassed that of men at 57%. While new infections are now commonest among young people, especially those between 19 and 24 years of age, it is at least 3 times higher and in some instances up to 6 times higher among girls than boys of the same age.

While the world has witnessed a rapid scale up of access to antiretroviral treatment in the recent past, less than 1 in 10 Africans in need of treatment received it by end of 2005, although this represents a four fold increase from previous years. There is therefore hope that scaling up access to treatment in Africa is indeed possible. On the other hand, prevention efforts have not resulted in appropriate behavior necessary to reverse the epidemic.

Large numbers of communities do not have access to preventative information, technologies and tools to support behavior change. In addition, the association between HIV infection and other infectious diseases, especially malaria and TB, has exacerbated the negative impact of not only HIV/AIDS but also of these other infections.

TB control efforts have been hampered by the escalating HIV/AIDS epidemic to an extent that TB has now been declared an emergency on the African continent. The majority of the 20 countries with the highest TB rates are in SSA. The increasing occurrence of multiple drug resistant TB and HIV is likely to further worsen both HIV and TB treatment efforts.

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