Tackling the AIDS Crisis in Sub-Saharan Africa

AIDS is a global epidemic, but Sub-Saharan Africa appears to be uniquely at the epicentre. Even though less than 15% of the total world population lives in Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 60% of AIDS-related deaths were occurring there.

Improvement Must be Measured in Tiny Steps

The global war on AIDS has invested considerable resources in Sub-Saharan Africa and it is paying off. After reaching peak rates in 1997, the number of new HIV infections is mirroring the decline seen in the rest of the world.

However, despite the good news, Sub-Saharan Africans still have a higher prevalence rate than their counterparts in other poor countries, such as Southeast Asia or the Caribbean.

Overcoming Stereotypes

Many well-researched and convincing theories as to the cause of Africa’s AIDS epidemic have been proposed.

But, one factor which probably holds the greatest key to prevention and treatment is sexual behaviour. The challenge for health professionals has been how to move past the history of western racism toward Africans, particularly in this area of sexuality.

The task has been challenging. A research paper produced in 2003 entitled, “Development and Change,” stated that misconceptions about African sexual behaviour delayed the implementation of critical prevention strategies.

Multiple Factors Require a Diverse Approach

Several other uniquely Sub-Saharan Africa factors have also played a role in the region’s HIV emergency. Agriculture is one example. The challenge of farming in drought conditions meant that Africans hunted for and consumed native animals. However, research indicates that it may indeed be these animals that were the original source of HIV.

Finding a single cause would have made the job easier, but Africa defies this. Instead, the global fight against HIV taking place in Africa had to be taken one step at a time. Each causal factor required its own unique response.

  • public education and awareness
  • condoms and circumcision to reduce transmission
  • better treatment cocktails
  • and increased funding on finding a cure

This approach has been working, with incremental success. For Sub-Saharan Africa, notorious for a total lack in governmental infrastructure, to have so many agencies and medical professions working together has been its own sort of miracle.

The war is a long way from being won but the future does look better.