Ignorance and apathy are the main enemies in the fight against AIDS. In the worst-hit continent, Africa, 200 million people do not have access to medicines while sufferers come to Europe in search of medication, putting an extra strain on healthcare facilities.
In Africa, the AIDS pandemic threatens to reduce life expectancy in some areas to just 26 years of age. Ignorance as to the causes of HIV and a belief that nothing can be done to help the patients (which in many cases is true) coupled with a fear of the stigma attacked to being HIV positive, leads many infected people to remain silent. Silence, in the case of HIV-AIDS, is deadly.
A young sufferer from Zambia, interviewed by PRAVDA.Ru in London, claimed that he came to the United Kingdom for treatment because he could not get access to medicines in his own country. Aware that his treatment was costing the British National Health Service at least 15,000 USD per year in medicines alone, he claimed that in Zambia, even if he had access to medication, which he did not, he could never afford it.
Many of those diagnosed as being HIV positive in Africa believe in miracle cures by witch doctors or by traditional protective measures, such as having sexual relations with a virgin. Practically all believe that there is no hope and that they are going to die anyway. The social stigma attached to a revelation that a person is HIV positive has started to take a grip in Africa, whereas education programmes have not.
Those Africans who are able to emigrate to the western countries have to surpass a number of obstacles. The USA, Canada and Australia demand an AIDS test before an immigrant is accepted. In the European Union, initiatives to persuade immigrants to have these tests are met by the fear that the authorities are trying to clamp down on clandestine labour.
The problem is huge. In the United Kingdom, for instance, the African immigrant population makes up the largest group of HIV positives, accounting for some 1,533 of the 4,163 new cases confirmed in the last year.
The notion that the new retroviral drugs cocktails have brought AIDS under control is pitifully wrong. Ignorance and apathy have not brought down the number of sufferers, currently 29,000,000 people in Africa alone with 17,000,000 deaths already registered in this continent. The statistics are shocking. In Botswana, 35.8% of the population of 2.8 million are HIV positive. In Swaziland, the figure is 25.25%, in Zimbabwe, 25.06% and in Lesotho, 23.57%. Globally, in the 28 Sub-Saharan African countries, out of a total population of 234.4 million, 12.41% (29,000,000 people) are HIV positive.
While western politicians bury their heads in the sands, genito-urinary experts predict that the African pandemic is bound to have repercussions in Western Europe and North America. The real tragedy is the high numbers of people infected, who, devoid of resources to help themselves and betrayed by ignorance, stupidity and corruption in their own countries, see access to healthcare systems denied elsewhere.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru