HIV/AIDS In Africa Reach Startling Numbers

By Steve Thompson

There are currently over 100 million people living with HIV/Aids worldwide, while Sub-Saharan Africa is home to nearly 25 percent of that total. Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 14 million African children have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

Life expectancy in Sub-Saharan Africa is 47 years, yet without AIDS, life expectancy increase by fifteen years. HIV/ AIDS also has a negative effect on the amount of health care available, the progress of economic growth, and the level of consistency at the workplace throughout the world.

“The most important lesson is self-awareness,” said Dr. Jude Aguwa, associate professor of religion. “Young adults have to be aware of what is going on around them.”

Aguwa hosted The Nigerian National HIV/AIDS challenge on Dec. 4 at Mercy College.

Aguwa hosted the event in recognition of December being national HIV/AIDS awareness month. Aguwa received the Olson Endowment Award, which carries the challenge of dealing with HIV/Aids in Nigeria. During Aguwa’s presentation, he will present the details of his study. Aguwa is a native of Nigeria, one of the countries in Africa being ravaged by the HIV/Aids epidemic. Aguwa himself lost a cousin to the AIDS virus, and knows all too well himself the devastation that HIV/Aids can bring.

“It’s a devastating disease, and nearly all Africans know someone who has been exposed to it,” said Aguwa.

Nearly 30 years after the emergence of AIDS, the disease today remains a huge threat for society. Individuals are living with AIDS on every continent and virtually every country. However, the Africa is facing a far greater challenge dealing with the epidemic. The number one demographic in terms of people being infected with HIV/ AIDS is black women, ages 25-40.

Sub- Saharan countries seem to be suffering the most. Botswana reported a startling 38.8 percent of its population (between the ages of 25 to 39) is living with HIV/Aids. Other countries such as Zimbabwe reported 33 percent, Namibia reported 22.5 percent, and Nigeria reported 5.8 percent. South Africa, known for its commerce and industry, reported that 20 percent of its population is currently living with HIV/Aids.

“Many of these numbers are skewed for African patients; these people do not receive death certificates so there is no way to truly know. Many of these people listed may have already passed.”

As high as those numbers may be, the numbers in north Africa are staggeringly low.

Countries such as Egypt and Libya reporting only .02 percent, while Algeria is at .01 percent.

“A lot has to do with the religious affiliations of the country,” Aguwa said. “Many individuals do not believe in using protection during sexual contact; religious beliefs have an effect on peoples’ decision making in terms of protection”.

It may be difficult for Americans to understand such high infection rates, yet most African countries do not have the accommodations the rest of the world possesses. For individuals living in Africa, advertised treatment is available, but travel to receive these treatments is difficult and expensive.

HIV/Aids has no known cure. According to Aguwa, although there is no cure there are ways of avoiding the disease particularly on the African continent. A few of them are more self awareness by people, pushing education as much as possible, protection, access to healthcare, and most importantly, greater effort towards empowering women.

HIV/Aids is a worldwide issue, yet affects Americans as well. Mercy student Scott Tross has also been hit close to home by the virus.

“At the age of 14 I lost my mother to AIDS. We don’t know exactly how she got it, but she passed exactly 13 months after being diagnosed,” he said. “HIV/ AIDS is a problem everywhere. It has no name preference, color or age. One thing I’m sure of is that it takes lives and it’s out there.”

Agawa and Ross stress that education about the disease and research for treatments has to continue to be encouraged. Ross added, “We all need to make sure we are doing our part to help stop this epidemic in its tracks.”