HIV/AIDS is a global problem equivalent to a death sentence for the infected people who do not have access to antiretroviral therapy. Sadly, when the developed world advanced in prolonging patients’ lives with new drugs, people on the African continent were dying from various complications of immune deficiency. The disease killed millions of Africans who lived in poverty and did not know they were HIV positive (McGeary, 2001). Indeed, McGeary (2001) discusses how many women were infected by their husbands and how many children died because they contracted the virus from their mothers. The author of the article raised a critical question about the spread of this devastating disease, calling the developed world for action. When this article was written, the aid from the Western countries was minimal because pharmaceutical companies did not want to provide antiretroviral drugs at lower prices. This article presents stories of HIV/AIDS patients from various social groups, revealing the high disease prevalence in Africa.
The article commences by stating the growing infection rates that co-exist with poverty, corruption, ignorance, and sexual violence. It appears that all sexually active people are at risk of getting HIV on this continent (McGeary, 2001). One of the central problems highlighted in this article is the resistance of men to protected sexual intercourse and domestic violence that resulted in infecting women who then transmit the virus to their children during pregnancy or delivery. Indeed, the author claims that 500,000 African children were infected with HIV in 2000 (McGeary, 2001). However, this statistical data was not reliable because many people preferred to conceal their positive HIV status or did not know about it, leaving their infected children without the appropriate care. Many infants would not survive until adolescence because their immune systems collapsed, resulting in death from various latent infections otherwise controlled in a healthy organism.
The stories of AIDS patients in this article are terrifying because of the lack of hope for these people. The first story was about a young man with AIDS who developed tuberculosis and did not want to go to the hospital. Like many other patients with this disease, the man is frail, dyspneic, feverish, and afraid. The author admits that the leading cause of this problem in Africa is ignorance because the general population believes in witchcraft and conspiracy theories about HIV/AIDS (McGeary, 2001). The lack of proper understanding prevents them from acquiring a healthier sexual behavior; therefore, the disease transmission continues despite free barrier contraceptive methods provided as humanitarian aid. Moreover, the stigma about HIV/AIDS caused the marginalization of people who told their families about their illness. For example, Laetitia and her brother have AIDS, but only she admitted her diagnosis. Her mother turned away from Laetitia, her children view her as a burden, and her employers fired her. In addition to physical suffering, AIDS patients in Africa have to live with the emotional pain of rejection by their families and communities.
Another contributing factor to HIV spread is promiscuity and prostitution. Men in Africa appear to have the absolute right to multiple sexual partners, leaving no power and choice to women (McGeary, 2001). Furthermore, they violently reject condom use, resulting in high transmission rates of various sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. For instance, male teachers in schools can easily infect their female students with whom they encounter sexual relationships. Indeed, promiscuity in African schools is prevalent, demonstrating that even educated people put others’ health at risk. Many women cannot find jobs; thus, some of them decide to involve in prostitution which places them at greater risk of being infected. It appears that some people in Africa are driven by their instincts and others by poverty, but the result is unfavorable for both groups.
The last two problems highlighted in this article are children with HIV/AIDS and orphans. As previously mentioned, more than half a million children were recorded to have HIV infection in 2000 in Africa (McGeary, 2001). The heartbreaking story about child no.17 talks about a three-year-old girl with AIDS and multiple other diseases that she developed due to weakened immunity. Her mother wanted to save her and prevent the birth of more children with this illness, but it seems that African women are often powerless against male dominance and their dangerous ignorance. The issue of parentless childhood in Africa is severe because many children lost their parents to AIDS. For example, 276,000 Malawian children younger than 15 years old were orphaned by this illness (McGeary, 2001). Although the governments of some African countries strived to increase the awareness of HIV/AIDS among citizens, local cultural beliefs did not allow for preventing the infection spread by practicing safe sexual behavior.
To sum up, this 2001 article raised important issues about a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS among the African population. The author presented several stories of AIDS patients who were infected due to ignorance, promiscuous behavior, sexual abuse, or perinatal transmission. Furthermore, the article discussed the problem with the availability of antiretroviral drugs on the continent. Therefore, there is a clear call for action for the developed countries to help the African population.
McGeary, J. (2001). Death stalks the continent. Time, 157(6), 36-38, 40-42, 44-45.