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The Face of the HIV /AIDS Epidemic

HIV and AIDS are the biggest health threats mankind has ever faced.

Diagram of the HIV virus.Image via Wikipedia

That is according to the World Health Organisation, which describes the global HIV epidemic as "the fastest growing threat to human development today."

You wouldn’t think so if you’re one of the lucky ones living in a wealthy developed nation. The developed world has been lulled into a false sense of security over HIV and AIDS.After all, it’s the gay plague isn’t it? And the occasional snippet of news coverage tells us it’s a bit of a problem in Africa. Nothing too much for middle class, heterosexual whites to worry about.

The stark truth is that there’s a lot to worry about. And everyone needs to start worrying – not just gays and Africans.

Global complacency over the HIV crisis is allowing whole nations to be decimated. And it’s this very same complacency which is allowing the killer virus to snare a whole new generation of youngsters in developed countries such as the UK and USA – youngsters who never saw those infamous and unforgettable tombstone adverts of the 1980s.

Facts about HIV/AIDS

Joe Public in the developed world thinks we’ve cracked the AIDS problem. New drug treatments enable people infected with HIV to live relatively normal and productive lives and these treatments have reduced the number of AIDS cases quite dramatically. So what is there to worry about? Here’s just a few things:

1. HIV infection is now rising dramatically among young heterosexuals in many northern European countries and in the USA

2. According to UNICEF six people aged between 15 and 24 become infected every minute of every day

3. The ease of global travel in recent years means the huge epidemics sweeping Third World nations inevitably affect developed countries. No single area of the global community is safe as long of millions of people continue to become infected with HIV

4. In sub-Saharan Africa more than 25 million people are now infected with HIV and the numbers are rising each year

5. Extreme poverty, civil war and domestic violence expose millions of women and children around the world to HIV infection on a daily basis

Cycle only, no structureImage via Wikipedia

6. Babies in Africa are routinely raped by HIV infected men who believe this will rid them of the virus

So what are we supposed to do faced with the sheer enormity of this global catastrophe? Most of us do nothing. Television footage of the Tsunami disaster, which claimed an estimated 250,000 lives, prompted the world’s population to react as never before in response to a humanitarian disaster. In that same year the HIV epidemic killed 2.5 million people in the sub-Saharan countries and left 12 million children orphaned. This is a disaster on a scale the world has never seen before – a disaster which, unlike the Tsunami, is preventable. But the developed world, by and large, is turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to it.

Some might argue that the scale of the crisis and the cost of tackling it are just too unmanageable to contemplate.

WHO estimates that around $1.5 billion a year is needed to implement HIV prevention programmes in the African countries worst hit by the virus. An impossible amount, you might think. Until you consider that some of the western oil corporations which continue to exploit Africa’s natural reserves make more than 10 times that amount in a single year.

And the USA alone spends a staggering $22 billion a year treating people suffering from heart disease because of their obesity.

It’s certainly food for thought.

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