Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Is the AIDS threat REALLY over?

Do a Google search on “Threat of world Aids pandemic among heterosexuals is over, report admits”, and you’ll be surprised to see how many articles refer to a report, written by the World Health Organisation (WHO), in which it is said that, apart from Africa, “there will be no generalised epidemic of Aids in the heterosexual population.” More details can be found here.
My son was speaking to some kind of medical professor from the USA some time ago and she told him, after he had told her what we are doing in Swaziland, that, as far as she is concerned, AIDS is under control in the USA. With the progress made in research and the development of ARVs, I can believe that this may be the truth. AIDS, I always say, is treatable but not curable. With the right medicine and more or less ideal circumstances, most HIV+ people would be able to live long and productive lives.
The fact is that Africa does not provide the ideal circumstances within which to fight a disease such as AIDS. ARVs are expensive. The cheapest tablets that I could find in a pharmacy in Swaziland costs around $50 per month. Where 70% of the population receive less than 45 US cents per day, it is clear that for the most people it is not an option to buy ARVs. Government hospitals supply ARVs, but the choice is limited. The privilege of adapting the treatment with different drugs to find the correct combination for a specific person, does not exist for the majority of the population.
Another problem is that ARV treatment is usually started too late. Last week one of our care supporters told me of someone who’s CD4 count had been determined. It was under 20. Treatment with ARVs in Swaziland should be started when the CD4 count falls below 200. But even that is too late. I spoke to a medical doctor some time ago who specialises in treating people with HIV and he told me that tuberculosis (TB) starts when the CD4 count falls below 350. According to him, if ARVs could be administered when the CD4 count is still above 350, the chances that a patient could live a fairly long life could be hugely increased, as many people who are HIV+ actually die because of TB. But where would Swaziland find the money for these drugs?
Furthermore, ARVs without healthy eating habits also does not give the required results. And this is another problem we have to cope with. Fruit and vegetables are expensive. We have seen, time and again, how people start using ARVs, but because they don’t eat balanced meals they seem to become stronger for a while and then their condition suddenly starts deteriorating and they die.
I can understand why the WHO says that the AIDS pandemic is over in many countries outside Africa. Although, I think in countries like India and Russia we are just starting to see the tip of the iceberg. But if the pandemic could be brought under control in the USA and Europe, then it means that we have to do even more to bring it under control in the rest of the world which is still severely affected by this disease.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008 - Posted by | Africa, AIDS, Death, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Mission, Poverty, Russia, Swaziland

2 Comments »

  1. I know that AIDS is ramping up in India. But I was surprised that the same thing is happening in Russia, until I read that is predominantly drug-needle related. That’s sad in a whole different direction.

    I get that we want our populations to not fear illnesses like HIV/AIDS, and thus would declare the crisis ‘over’. But I think that sends the wrong message in this case. It is still a debilitating disease, and even with the drug cocktails available, there is still plenty of risk.

    I think the most important quote from that article is:
    “Aids still remains the leading infectious disease challenge in public health. It is an acute infection but a chronic disease. It is for the very, very long haul. People are backing off, saying it is taking care of itself. It is not.”

    Comment by brad | Wednesday, June 25, 2008 | Reply

  2. Brad,
    In Russia it started off as the result of drug abuse, but it is slowly but surely changing into a sexually transmitted disease.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Wednesday, June 25, 2008 | Reply


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