Education | Why You Should Care
The HIV/AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa
According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), 21 million people living with HIV more than two thirds of the worldwide
total live in sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of HIV-positive African men and women reportedly were exposed through heterosexual contact.
An astounding 80% of all women and 87% of all children living with HIV worldwide live in Africa.
African countries along the west coast, in general, have witnessed slower rates of HIV infection than countries in the southern
and eastern regions of the continent.
- UNAIDS estimates that one adult in 10 in Côte d'lvoire lives with HIV. In Nigeria, HIV prevalence in adults is an estimated 4.l%,
which is low compared to the prevalence in many other African countries. Because the population of Nigeria is 118 million, however, this
prevalence means there are approximately 2.2 million cases in Nigeria alone.
The countries in the southern and eastern regions of Africa have experienced the most dramatic increases in reported cases
of HIV infection.
- In 1995, an astounding 70% of the women who visited a prenatal clinic near the Zimbabwe-South Africa tested HIV positive. In a major commercial
farming town in Zimbabwe in 1996, nearly six out of 10 pregnant women were living with HIV. In Zimbabwe in 1997, 25% of adults were believed
to be HIV-positive.
- At the beginning of 1998, some 2.9 million people in South Africa were believed to be living with HIV, more than 700,000 of whom were
infected in 1997 alone.
- In a major city in Botswana in 1997, 43% of pregnant women reportedly were living with HIV.
Children in this region also are disproportionately affected.
- As of early 1998, 8.2 million children around the globe have been orphaned due to AIDS (lost their mothers or both parents). More than
90% of the 1.6 million orphaned in 1997 live in sub-Saharan Africa.
Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, 11.7 million people around the globe have died of an AIDS-related illness,
with 83% of these deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. Emerging and reemerging infectious diseases, poor quality of and access to medical
treatment, and untreated STDs contribute to the high number of AIDS cases and AIDS-related deaths in this region. However, the lack of available
antiretroviral drugs significantly contributes to the high numbers of AIDS cases and deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.
The lack of HIV education, awareness, prevention and testing services inhibits the ability of people in this vulnerable
region to protect themselves, each other and the children they someday may have.
The HIV/AIDS pandemic was not a serious health threat in Asia until the early 1990s. People in India and certain countries in South and Southeast
Asia-Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Viet Nam and Cambodia-reportedly are affected by HIV more than people in other regions of Asia. Today, there
are 5.8 million people living with HIV in South and Southeast Asia.
- India is the country with the largest number of HIV-infected people in the world.
The sex industry in South and Southeast Asia significantly facilitates the rampant spread of HIV.
- In Myanmar, HIV infections among sex workers increased from 4% to more than 20% between 1992 and 1996.
- In Cambodia, one in two sex workers tested positive for HIV in recent surveillance.
- About 30% of sex workers aged 13 to 19 in Cambodia are infected with HIV.
The high rates of HIV infection among female sex workers exposes not only the client, but also other women to HIV.
- In a recent survey of Thai women, more than half of those who were HIV positive were infected by their one and only lifetime sex partner.
- Thai women living with HIV reported that their partners were more likely to have visited a female sex worker and to have had one or more
sexually transmitted diseases than HIV-negative women.
Injection drug use accounts for a substantial number HIV infections in Asia.
- In Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, HIV rates among injection drug users increased from 2% to 40% in less than two years.
- Until 1997, injection drug users accounted for 70% of HIV infections in Viet Nam.
- Nine out of 10 injection drug users in Kachin, Myanmar, are estimated to be infected with HIV.
In South and Southeast Asia, HIV transmission among injection drug users is exacerbated by a system of communal drug injections,
known in Viet Nam as "shooting galleries," where clients pay for shots of opium or heroin. The dealer, using one syringe, withdraws the drug
solution from a pot, injects the client, and without cleaning the syringe, provides the next client with the same service. One pot holds roughly
50 injections. In Myanmar, the system of communal drug injections is similar to that in Viet Nam and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is just as
While HIV/AIDS has not affected Asia as quickly as it has sub-Saharan Africa, the pandemic
is expected t o grow. UNAIDS expects that by the end of the year 2000, one out of every four HIV infections
worldwide will be in Asia and the Pacific. « »
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