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AIDS poses big threat to Africa’s economies Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Amaka for Kids, Nigeria Feb 16, 2007
Health   Opinions
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One of the objectives of establishing the African Union (AU) was to hasten development, economic growth and improve living standards of the people.

However, the widespread of HIV/Aids is threatening the aspiration.

But what has been the cause of the continued rapid spread of the scourge and what should Africa do to curb the pandemic impact on the continent’s development?
The scourge of HIV/Aids is ravaging AU member states, threatening their economic progress with collapse.

A 2005 development report shows that despite decent growth rates many African states have achieved, the impact of the deadly health problem is seriously eroding their manpower, the economic base they badly need to overcome poverty.

The pandemic has reduced life expectancy in African States, particularly in Sub-Saharan region. In Tanzania, for instance, life expectancy of the productive manpower has fallen from a peak of 52 years in 1998 to around 48 years today because of the disease that appeared for the first time in the country in 1983.

Had it not been for the deadly virus, the 39 years life expectancy in Botswana today would be 72.

The disease is consequently not only a health problem, but also a serious economic impediment, making it urgent for Africa to come up with a solution.

’’It is depleting disproportionately the productive and skilled segment of the population, thereby raising the dependency ratio,’’ the report says.

The 53-member state AU was formed in July 2002 to among other things hasten improvement of the standard of living of the continent’s 861 million Africans, majority of which live in abject poverty.

Increasingly, HIV/Aids is claiming a large share of national public resources to care for the terminally ill on the continent. Prof. Humphrey Moshi of Economic Research Bureau, University of Dar es Salaam once said that the cost of nursing one AIDS patient was enough to educate nine primary school pupils.

The HIV/Aids statistics in some Sub-Saharan countries are shocking, suggesting speedy action. Between 50 - 80 per cent of patients occupying beds in hospitals of Zimbabwe and Zambia have AIDS-related illnesses.

In South Africa, the infection rate has recently peaked to above 1,500 daily making it a country with greatest number of persons living with AIDS worldwide.

Between one in seven and one in nine live with HIV, just as is the case in Malawi and Mozambique.

Indeed the situation is getting out of hands!
In response to the challenge, some measures have been taken.

The Southern Africa Capacity Initiative (SACI) project was initiated to assist the most affected countries with HIV/Aids deal with erosion capacity caused by the pandemic.

A key focus of the initiative has been furthering of researches on how HIV/Aids affects both the supply of and demand for government services, and come up with comprehensive preventive solutions.

The project is currently being implemented in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.

African state’s HIV infection rates continue to rise in some countries. In other countries, the infection rates are above 20 per cent among adult, while others have infection rates in excess of 30 percent.

It is feared that the number of African countries with infection rate exceeding 30 per cent might increase, a situation, which would greatly destabilize the already fragile continent’s economic growth.

This makes the SACI Project and other preventive measures being taken by Africa countries important.

The UNAIDS/WHO update-2002 report mentioned countries whose infection rates exceed 30 per cent as Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

In Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe it is estimated that more than one person in five, between the ages of 15 and 19 are living with HIV virus. A study case in Zimbabwe, one of the hardest hit African countries illustrates the enormity of the problem.

At one time blood samples of expectant mothers in 25 surveillance sites in 1997 tested anonymously showed that HIV prevalence remained below 10 per cent in two sites only. In the remaining 23, a fifth and a half of all pregnant women tested were HIV positive!

In Tanzania the scourge’s prevalence, according to blood donors during the period between 1990 and 2000 almost doubled to 13.3 per cent from 7.2 per cent a couple of years previously.

The question many people ask is that despite awareness levels reaching 98 percent in some African states, why has the virus continued to spread with alarming rates?

A recent study ’’Social aspect of HIV/Aids and health’’by W.W. Kellogg Foundation has attempted to provide an answer for the above question.

According to the study, the practices of drying up women genitals aiming to provide pleasure to men during sexual intercourse commonly practised in South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and many other African states was to greater extent responsible for escalating HIV/Aids infections in Sub-Saharan countries.

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