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Currently, HIV/AIDS is the most worrying public health issue that demands utmost global attention. In the 1990s, the number of infected persons globally was just 8 million. However, the number has continually risen over the years and in the 2000s, the number of infected persons hit 30 million. Year 2009 recorded the highest number of infected persons (33.3 million). More worrying is the number of deaths, which amount to over 30 million since the epidemic broke out. In year 2009 alone, newly infected persons were 15.9 million (7000 persons daily) and the number of deaths stood at 1.8 million (World Health Organization, 2011). The questions that arise are; what factors are contributing to the prevalence, who are the most affected and what are the actions taken to mitigate the HIV/AIDS epidemic?
Factors Contributing to HIV/AIDS Prevalence
The prevalence of HIV/AIDS infections and death rates results from a combination of factors. These include political, environmental, social-cultural, behavioral, health infrastructure and health policies factors. The social-cultural beliefs held worldwide such as sexual freedom, wife inheritance and nightlife ‘raves’ create an environment where risky sexual behavior is acceptable thus resulting to increased HIV/AID spread. For instance, the sub-Saharan region, which has the highest HIV/AID prevalence (22.5 million persons), practices wife inheritance. If the widow is HIV/AIDS positive, the late husband’s brother is infected and in turn, he infects his wife who bears an infected child. In the western world, nightlife ‘raves’ culture results to continual use of ‘ecstasy’ drug that leads to having unprotected sex with strangers. In developing countries, HIV/AIDS patients have difficulty accessing antiretroviral drugs and are unable to afford enough nutritious foods to keep them healthy. As World Health Organization (2011) indicates, this results from poor politics, which lead to poor health and economic policies that culminate into substandard health care facilities and food insecurity. In developed countries such as U.S., governments address HIV/AIDS at a global level and forget to address the issue at a national level. There are no national plans that can address the epidemic at national level and therefore, vulnerable populations such as gay men succumb to HIV infections. This shows that HIV/AIDS prevalence in developed countries results from poor health policies, which leads to poor disbursement of resources. As a result, the government does not address the needs of persons with the likelihood of developing HIV/AIDS infections and those infected with HIV/AIDS.
The Population Most Affected
Of the 7000 persons infected with HIV/AIDS daily, 51% are women, a clear sign that women are the most affected. Even though the number of women receiving HIV tests in the world has increased since 2005, the number of women tested is still low with poor rates such as 1% in North Africa and Middle East, 17% in South East, East and South Asia, and 26% in middle and low-income regions. Low HIV testing rate around the globe has highly contributed to progressed infections and increased deaths. In addition, the rates at which infected pregnant mothers get ARTs for preventing MTCT or for health purposes is low (53% in middle/ low-income regions, 3% in North/Middle East Africa, 23% in Central/Western Africa, 68% in Southern and Eastern Africa and 32% in East, South East and South Asia). This has led to more (Mother To Child Infection) MTCTs thus giving rise to more HIV/AIDs infection and death-related cases. This is what accounts for the 2.5 million children living with HIV/AIDs and over 260,000 children deaths occurring each year. High infection among women has also led to increased healthcare services demand that has overwhelmed the health infrastructure especially in developing countries. Additionally, women succumbing to HIV/AIDS infection leave dysfunctional families (orphans and single fathers) that cause psychological (lack of parental care in orphaned children) and physical (girl-child rape) health risks to those left (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011).
Global Agency HIV/AIDS Efforts
Several global agencies such as UNITAID (2011), UNAIDS (2011) and The Global Fund (2011) are greatly assisting women, especially the most vulnerable ones (women in Sub-Saharan, low-income and middle-income regions). Some of the efforts include reducing prices on HIV/AIDS treatment/diagnostic services. The agencies are also accelerating the availability of quality medicine/ diagnostic services, and funding HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and management programs to cut MTCT infection rates and make sure that infected mothers stay healthy to take care of their children. As a result, more HIV/AIDS infected mothers are undergoing tests and are receiving ARTs. For instance, in the Sub-Saharan region, the number of women taking the drugs has risen from 15% in 2005 to 54% in 2009. This shows that more children are born HIV/AIDS free, (over 7.7 million annually), more mothers are staying healthy to take care of their children and more families are functional (have both parents). Hence, HIV/AIDS health-related issues brought by HIV/AIDS prevalence in women are gradually eradicated (World Health Organization, 2011).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). HIV/AIDS. Web.
UNAIDS. (2011). World leaders launch plan to eliminate new HIV infections among children by 2015. Web.
UNITAID. (2011). Increasing treatment coverage for HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB through Market solutions. Web.