HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. The virus infects and survives only in humans and can also be traced in fresh blood of humans outside the body. Immune-deficiency is lack of natural ability to protect the body against diseases or infections. The virus attacks white blood cells which protect the body from infections, thus weakening the immune system. With time the weakness lead to a group of illness called AIDS. AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Syndrome is a group of signs and symptoms indicating a disease and if they weaken the immune system HIV virus multiplies (Foote & Linda, 1993).
HIV virus is grouped into two types, HIV-1 and HIV-2. Type 1 is responsible for global AIDS epidemic while type 2 is less aggressive and slower than type 1 due to disease pattern. HIV 2 does not transmit readily as HIV 1 although it eventually leads to death. HIV 1 is further subdivided into sub type ACD, B and E. Sub type ACD is found in sub-Saharan Africa and spread faster than other subtypes. B is found in America and E is in Thailand and Australia. AIDS is killing people through opportunistic infections because they take advantage of lowered immunity (Foote & Linda, 1993).
AIDS occur 5 to 15 years after infection with HIV infection. Throughout the world sub Saharan Africa is the most affected part with high population being infected. In countries such as Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho and Zambia with high prevalence rate, life expectancy is as low as 40 years. The reality is that African population has dropped with most deaths occurring between the age of 25 to 35 years for men and 20 to 30 for women. Large number of infected are dying daily leaving behind shattered families with crippled prospects for sustainable development (Rowntree, Lewis, Price & Wyckoff, 2008).
The AIDS orphan population has risen and they create great challenge in sub Saharan countries. In most of these areas women are at high risk of infection. Factors such as social cultural contribute to high rates of women infection where male rule and allowed to have multiple sex partners. Cultural practices such as wife inheritance, polygamy, female genital mutilation, early marriage and resistance to use of condom puts women at risk of infection. Women also face gender based violence such as sexual abuse and economical factor where they have limited access to family resources. These put them at risk since they are dependent on men. Social illness such as sodomy, rape, premarital sex, homosexuality and drug abuse has also contributed to higher rates of AIDS spread in the region.
The rate of AIDS is high in sub Saharan Africa countries, from 4 to 6 percent in urban areas and 5 to 10 percent in rural areas. The number of infected persons in this sub Saharan Africa has increased to more than 80 million and the number infected in rural areas are greater than in urban areas. HIV/AIDS has no impact on population distribution because all ages from children, youth to adult can be infected. The virus infects without any discrimination of class, race, religion or geographical boundary (Foote & Linda, 1993).
Poverty as a major factor has greatly contributed to high spread of HIV virus in sub Saharan region. Poverty and social economic factors intertwined resulting into spread of the virus. Example, due to lack of recreation activities the youth becomes idle and to reduce idleness they engage in risky behavior such as premarital sex, predisposing them to HIV infection. Tourism attraction especially in South Africa has also contributed to the spread of the virus. Young men are involved in gay sex while young girls run after the tourist as commercial sex workers. Internally displaced persons of whom the highest percentage is the poor are also exposed to the virus. Women and girls in this case are unfortunate since they have no male protection; they are abused sexually, raped and dumped.
Most African countries have families living below the poverty line. Lack of finances makes women and girls to be involved in risky behaviors such as commercial sex workers so that they can get daily bread. Anti HIV drugs are not available to poor persons since they cannot afford cash to buy drugs, thus their life span is too short. Mother to child transmission is also high since there is no appropriate access to proper delivery tools and drugs to prevent transmission. Infected mothers also transmit the virus to children through breastfeeding since they cannot afford to buy formula food for children. Infected children die at early age since their parents cannot afford paediatric anti HIV drug. Lack of finances contributes to low levels of education, lack of basic education on good health and nutrition leads to faster development of HIV to AIDS resulting in earlier death. Opportunistic infection such as STI and genital ulcers increases high chances of virus transmission (Rowntree, Lewis, Price & Wycokoff, 2008).
Support to infected and affected persons is provided in sub Saharan areas to decrease the rate of HIV/AIDS spread. Basic education is provided by learned persons especially from developed western countries. Many non governmental organizations provide relieve food and anti HIV drugs to these countries. Several measures on the spread of HIV virus in sub Saharan countries has been introduced, use of condom is the major method introduced to control the spread. Other minor methods used include treatment of STI and genital ulcers infections, using sterilized needles and screening blood before transfusion.
In sub Saharan Africa the spread of aids is faster due to lack of basic education and ignorance. Everybody is affected either directly or indirectly, thus training and counseling about HIV/AIDS is very important. Through basic education affected people get to know how to take care of the infected persons and knowledge on mode of transmission. Through counseling, the infected persons get to live a more fulfilling life (Foote & Linda, 1993).
Foote, K. & Linda, G. (1993). Demographic change in sub Saharan Africa. USA: National Academic Press.
Rowntree, L. Lewis, M. Price, M & Wycokoff, W. (2008). Globalization and diversity: Geography of a Changing world. Upper saddle River: Prentice-Hall.