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“When there's a terrible illness like AIDS sweeping through, you help people.”

Bernadette Peters

set me free
"Set Me Free"                                                  Copyright Rick Wolfryd 2012


IMPORTANT FACTS ( Courtesy of various authors and the INTERNET )

Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 15 million Africans have died from AIDS. Nearly two-thirds of all people living with HIV are found in sub-Saharan Africa, although this region contains only about 10% of the world's population. Over 550,000 people have died of AIDS in the USA. That is the equivalent of a City the size of Las Vegas or larger. There are currently around 1.3 million people living with HIV in the United States of America and around a fifth of these people ( 20% ) are unaware of their infection, posing a high risk of onward transmission.

How Are People Affected by AIDS? Individuals: AIDS does not just affect society from the outset, but rather it is a process started on the individual level and repeated many times. Individuals affected with AIDS must deal with lower income potential, either because they cannot find work or have to take time away from work for treatment. Also, many people may become social outcasts to a certain extent, especially in those countries where there is less understanding. As noted in a Presidential Panel Report on AIDS in South Africa, "People living with HIV and AIDS, their families, and 'at risk' groups such as sex workers and migrants are often subject to outright social alienation."

How Are People Affected by AIDS? Families: As with Individuals, families suffering from the impact of AIDS can be quite severe. Noted Indian AIDS professionals Singh and Banerjee commented: “The entire social fabric of the family is potentially disrupted by AIDS.” Around the world, an estimated 15 million children have been orphaned due to aids, the vast majority of these in Africa. In Zimbabwe and Botswana, for example, AIDS is responsible for more than three-quarters of the orphans in those countries. These orphans are usually in countries that are considered Third World, where the resources to deal with them are very scarce. In some cases, those who have lost their parents because of AIDS will be cared for by other relatives. In many cases, those relatives may not be around or will be unable to take care of those children. In those cases, it is up to the country to care for the child, with or without the help of the international community. That can put a further strain on cash-strapped countries.

Global Implications: All countries will bear some cost expenditures because of AIDS, and that will continue to take money away from other priorities a country may have. In the end, however, Singh and Banerjee note, "The global burden of HIV infection in the years to come will be borne overwhelmingly by people in developing countries." The fact that the majority of AIDS cases or orphans are in developing countries does not mean the rest of the world will bear no financial burden. Those countries often depend on foreign aid and medications to help with their populations of sick and diseased, whether related to AIDS or any other condition. Therefore, the disease will continue to be a financial drain on the resources of all people of the world. US response to the AIDS Epidemic: America’s response to the AIDS epidemic has produced mixed results. HIV prevention efforts have not always been successful and in 2009 approximately 54,000 Americans were infected with HIV, that is about one every nine-and-a-half minutes. Washington DC has an HIV prevalence of 3.2 percent among people over 12 years - similar to rates in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Today, AIDS continues to directly affect thousands of gay and bisexual men and injecting drug users every year, but it has also become a serious problem among Black Americans and, more recently, among the Hispanic/Latino population. However, it is not necessarily individual behavior, but rather a person's sexual network which determines an individual's HIV risk in America. Therefore, black males are much more likely to be infected because of the high prevalence in this community and a tendency to choose racially similar partners as opposed to simply high-risk behavior.

Younger people are also a more at-risk group. Although overall, the rate of new infections remained stable between 2006 and 2009, among adolescents and young adults HIV incidence increased by 21 percent. For young people who belong to key populations at higher risk, the increase was especially high; for example there was a 34 percent increase among young men who have sex with men during the same period.

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