HIV/AIDS is a global health issue because it has the capability of affecting both developed nations, developing nations, and less developed nations. Infection with HIV causes AIDS, which affects the immune system of the body. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), is one of the world’s most serious health and development challenges. Approximately 36.9 million people are currently living with HIV, and tens of millions of people have died of AIDS-related causes since the beginning of the epidemic. (“The Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic”, 2019). HIV spreads through blood and bodily fluids, so anyone engaging in unprotected sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) can become infected.
Individuals with multiple sex partners, including commercial sex workers, and injection drug users are also at increased risk”. (“HIV Global | Gateway to Health Communication | CDC”, 2019). The HIV epidemic not only affects the health of individuals, but it also impacts households, communities, and the development and economic growth of nations. Many of the countries hardest hit by HIV also suffer from other infectious diseases, food insecurity, and other serious problems. Social consequences of HIV infection are stigma and discrimination because AIDS is associated with marginalized groups, sexual promiscuity, and death.
HIV/AIDS has been synonymous with a global epidemic for close to three decades. Despite significant medical breakthroughs in the management of the disease and tremendous efforts poured into halting its spread, the HIV/AIDS epidemic remains a critical international health crisis. The issue is complex and multifaceted, with the causes of its rapid spread rooted in the socioeconomic consequences of broken societies and communities. This report will seek to examine the underlying factors and impacts while reflecting on the extent of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.
According to the Joint United nations Programs on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) (2018), as of 2017, about 36.9 million people in the world we’re living with HIV/ AIDS. Of these, about 1.8 million were children less than 15 years old. Most of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa and were infected by their HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. Approximately 75% of people living with HIV globally were aware of their HIV status in 2017 due to the lack of being able to be tested.
The majority of individuals with HIV are in low-income and middle-income nations as in 2016, there were 19.4 million people living with HIV (53%) in eastern and southern Africa, 6.1 million (17%) in western and central America, 5.1 million (14%) in Asia and Pacific and 2.1 million (6%) in western and central Europe and North America. The remaining 25% (over 9 million people) still need access to HIV testing services (UNAIDS, 2018).
Despite progress in the scientific comprehension of HIV and its treatment and prevention as well as years of critical efforts by the world health society and leading civil society organizations and governments, many people with HIV lack access to prevention, treatment, and care (Martin et al., 2013). HIV is an epidemic that impacts households and economic growth development of nations in addition to affecting the health of individuals. Moreover, those countries hit by HIV suffer from food security and other infectious diseases. Infectious disease resulting from HIV include coccidioidomycosis, invasive cervical cancer, cytomegalovirus diseases, tuberculosis, Kaposi’s sarcoma, and progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (Diro et al.,2015)
Some socio-economic factors that are influencing the enhancement and spread of HIV/ AIDS are malnutrition and sanitation in developing countries. This can lead to exacerbation symptoms of hinder recovery. Studies show that any immune impairment as a result of HIV/AIDS leads to malnutrition, and malnutrition leads to immune impairment, worsens the effect of HIV, and contributes to more rapid progression to AIDS (USAID, 2001). Thus, malnutrition can both contribute to and result from the progression of HIV. A person who is malnourished and then acquires HIV is more likely to progress faster to AIDS because his/her body is already weak and cannot fight infection. A well-nourished person has a stronger body for coping with HIV and fighting illness.
The most problematic issue about the global HIV crisis is the inherent structural inequalities and social discrimination that people with the infection face. Despite significant advances in the management and containment of the virus, HIV continues to spread, most often in the most marginalized communities or countries. Structural inequalities such as insufficient access to healthcare, lack of screenings, poor awareness and education, and no medical resources for prevention or management of the disease are fueling the epidemic amongst the most impoverished sectors of society.
The egregious issue is that the global pharmaceutical and health organizations are unwilling to dedicate resources to resolve the crisis since HIV/AIDS treatment is expensive for consumers and remains profitable in developed countries. Even in the US population, disparities remain as African American and Latino populations face tremendously higher rates of HIV-positive status and subsequent mortality rates than whites (Robinson & Moodie-Mills, 2012). In addition, popular culture and public misunderstanding of the racial disparities in the crisis further contributes to insufficient policy initiatives to resolve the epidemic.
Solution and Recommendations
HIV prevention treatment, care, and support services are available (HIV.GOV 2018). According to Arrey, Bilsen, Lacor, and Deschepper (2015) access to treatment is fundamental to global efforts to ending AIDS as a public threat, people taking antiretroviral therapy can lead a healthy life, thus increased the probability of not transmitting the virus. The efforts to resolve the crisis focus on three primary aspects, preventing HIV, providing treatment for those who need it, and empowering vulnerable populations, particularly women and girls in developing nations, to take control of their health. An additional goal of protecting human rights provides an effective HIV response by establishing a strong civil society and government institutions which can contribute to reducing stigma and discrimination (UNAIDS, 2016).
As evident, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is a complex global health issue, thus solutions will also have to be multifaceted approaches that not only address the consequences and human cost of the disease but the underlying systemic factors. First, is the most immediate solution, which is to increase HIV service delivery and medical aid to the most affected regions and populations, which are primarily located in Africa.
However, inequities in healthcare provision to vulnerable and at-risk populations should be actively engaged in developed regions of the world as well. Governments with the help of international political and medical organizations should deliver health services that screen, treat, and educate about HIV, particularly focusing on preventing HIV transmission to children and adolescents. Country-specific programs and interventions must be implemented which integrates HIV prevention into other health services such as maternal and child health, nutrition, and childhood development as well as sexual education and female empowerment among young adults (UNICEF, n.d.).
Furthermore, it is necessary to address the underlying factors which contribute to such rapid spread of the disease. This includes aspects of poverty, disorganized health systems, and inequities in the delivery of care to minorities and women. Strong health systems can help a country tremendously to respond to an epidemic, serving as a foundation for a healthy population. This is built on financing, medical technology and research, competent service delivery, and appropriate governance.
The underlying health delivery aspects of the HIV epidemic will not be addressed unless systemic factors are addressed. Currently, international organizations are funding global projects which provide the resources to regions in need for the purpose of strengthening health systems through building the capacity of governments to offer sustainable and comprehensive evidence-based HIV services (IntraHealth, 2014).
As a result, it is recommended to increase resources and financing towards HIV-prevention programs and health systems development, particularly in regions where the state provides little support. Increasing education and awareness is key, as numerous studies and organizations have highlighted the success of female education and empowerment in reducing the spread of HIV (Karim, 2017). Integrating knowledge into healthcare can break the cycle of transmission since people will be aware of their HIV status and the understanding of the need for protection and as well as regular screening with their partners. It is necessary to remove barriers to access and treatment for priority populations.
Globally, this occurs at the policy level, which emphasizes the need for increased funding and resource distribution from international aid organizations. The solutions are evident, and the HIV epidemic can be manageable but requires significant effort to implement at a practical level.
People should care about the HIV/AIDS epidemic, even in communities where it may not be a prevalent issue. The epidemic is a tremendous health issue and poses a threat to humanity with millions of infections occurring globally. Also, a significant number of people are not aware of their HIV status, no matter the region or community, which may endanger others and further contribute to the spread of the virus.
A strong effect that has allowed anti-HIV efforts to be successful is widespread awareness, advocacy, and support for the issue, beginning in local communities and country, and influencing action by global organizations around the world. Therefore, it is important for the community to care in order to preserve the health status of local populations and prevent similar errors in health systems and lack of awareness which contributed to the spread of HIV in other regions of the world.
Learning about this global health issue has been humbling and inspiring. While most people in the United States are aware of HIV/AIDS through numerous fundraisers and health initiatives, few can probably guess the extent that the virus has spread in other regions of the world, as well as the toll it has on whole populations.
This reveals a much darker side of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, one that targets the most vulnerable and impoverished regions with little available resources to fight it even with significant aid being provided internationally. Even the most fundamental aspects of HIV/AIDS awareness and education are not available to some, while the virus affects those who may not have a choice such as children and women. This research has had a profound impact on me to become more aware of global health issues and possibly participate in some level of advocacy in my local community.
It is evident that the extent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is widespread despite decades of research, awareness, and comprehensive medical programs targeting the most vulnerable regions. The causes of the issue are systemic, resulting in significant consequences for global public health. Therefore, the solutions to the crisis must be multifaceted and comprehensive, addressing all aspects of social barriers, economic challenges, and health delivery. Through competent resource distribution and approaches as well as global cooperation, including on local community levels, an impact can be made to potentially eradicate the virus during this century.
Arrey, A. E., Bilsen, J., Lacor, P., & Deschepper, R. (2015). “It’s my secret”: fear disclosure among Sub-Saharan African migrant women living with HIV/AIDS in Belgium. PloS One, 10(3), e0119653.
Diro, E., Ritmeijer, K., Boelaert, M., Alves, F., Mohammed, R., Abongomera, C., … & Colebunders, R. (2015). Use of pentamidine as secondary prophylaxis to prevent visceral leishmaniasis relapse in HIV infected patients, the first twelve months of a prospective cohort study. PLoS Neglected Tropical Disease, 9(10), e004087.
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