“We are all sick because of AIDS – and we are all tested by this crisis. It is a test not only of our willingness to respond, but of our ability to look past the artificial divisions and debates that have often shaped that response.
When you go to places like Africa and you see this problem up close, you realize that it’s not a question of either treatment or prevention – or even what kind of prevention – it is all of the above.
It is not an issue of either science or values – it is both.
Yes, there must be more money spent on this disease. But there must also be a change in hearts and minds; in cultures and attitudes. Neither philanthropist nor scientist; neither government nor church, can solve this problem on their own – AIDS must be an all-hands-on-deck effort.”
– Barack Obama, speech on World AIDS Day.
We are not winning the war on HIV/AIDS. The horrible illness is steadily wearing away our global community – and none have been hit harder than Africa, a continent that already struggles enough to keep its inhabitants alive without the threat of AIDS.
Swaziland reported on Friday that 42% of pregnant women in the country are infected with HIV. This is a 3% increase in a single. The country is one of the smallest nations in Africa and yet has the highest AIDS rate in the world. Life expectancy is a mere 37 years of age. Reported statistics indicate that some 185,000 of the 1 million citizens of Swaziland carry the virus. Less than one fifth of those infected receive antiretroviral medication.
The South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) reported earlier this week that 15% of school children in the country have been forced to have sex without consent. As a result of sexual abuse and rape, the report also stated that 15% of children between 12 and 17 years of age would knowingly spread the virus because that is the behavior they are familiar with.
Lesotho is also grappling to keep with the spread of HIV/AIDS. The government promised in 2005 to test more than 1 million of its citizens, but due to a lack of finances for the campaign, the last reported number of test was around 25,000. The epidemic has infected around one third of adults in Lesotho, a country with only 1.8 million citizens. The average life expectancy has also dwindled down to between 35-38 years.
These are only a few of the hundreds of desperate cases that have resulted from the AIDS crisis. What has been done up to now has been progress, but if we want to see this illness eradicated from our planet for good, it will undeniable take an “all-hands-on-deck effort”.