A major cause of death of Bahamians in the age group 15 to 44 is AIDS. This is a result of unprotected sex, ignorance and the reluctancy to get tested and treated. Many Bahamians engage in sexual intercourse without the use of contraceptives. Ignorant to the dangers of AIDS, they believe that nothing will happen. When and if there is a slight belief that one is infected with AIDS, Bahamians tend to hesitate to get tested or treated because of appearances.
However, “as research, investment and commitment into understanding HIV and AIDS increased, so the outcome of people living with HIV improved around the world” (“AVERTing HIV & AIDS”). With innovative and private methods many organizations have formed for the fight against this disease, locally the AIDS Foundation of the Bahamas and globally, the Clinton Global Initiative. There has been several advancements in the Bahamas in conjunction with AIDS.
Pregnant mothers who are infected with HIV are now able to take retrovirals that will could the baby from being born with AIDS. The origin of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, AIDS, can be traced back to Africa as far as the 1930’s. The first recognized cases of AIDS occurred in the USA in the early 1980s when “number of gay men in New York and California suddenly began to develop rare opportunistic infections and cancers” (“AVERTing HIV & AIDS”). Then, AIDS was detected among Haitians in the United States and then among the Europeans and finally among the Chinese.
During the year 1982, three thousand AIDS cases were reported in the United States and one thousand of them died. Eventually, AIDS spread into the Caribbean, impaling the Bahamas. “AIDS is a severe immunological disorder caused by the retrovirus HIV, resulting in a defect in cell-mediated immune response that is manifested by increased susceptibility to opportunistic infections and to certain rare cancers” (National HIV/AIDS Center). Like a praying mantis, AIDS is a silent but very deadly disease.
HIV is a “slow acting virus and the majority of infected individuals look healthy and feel well for many years after the infection” and may not even suspect that they harbor the virus (National HIV/AIDS Center). This disease is causing so many deaths and many Bahamians are unknowing of the serious dangers of it. The crack cocaine epidemic in the early 1980‘s led to an increase in sex for drugs and sex with drugs. The use of cocaine caused impaired judgement, resulting in persons having sex with multiple partners.
Statistics show that approximately 30% of persons with AIDS used cocaine. Following on the crack cocaine epidemic, the STI clinic documented an alarming increase in persons with genital ulcer diseases like syphilis and herpes. Bahamian Infectious Disease and STI experts documented the “connection with genital ulcer disease , HIV infection and cocaine use, causing risky behaviors, which resulted in the spread of HIV” (National HIV/AIDS Center). Many Bahamians are having unprotected sex with several partners which has led to this AIDS epidemic.
Many Bahamians, especially the young, believe that sex without a condom is what is considered “cool” or “stylish”. But, they are terribly wrong. As AIDS is a disease that may not show signs for up to eight, even ten years of being infected, unprotected sex is not cool, nor is it stylish, it is extremely dangerous and imprudent. Statistics show that of the total 10,841 HIV infections, 7829 are in Bahamians between the ages 15 and 44. Which means, 72% of the total HIV infected Bahamians are between the ages of 15-44.
It is clear that the bulk of the population engaging in unprotected sex are between these ages. In the Bahamas, the cumulative number of AIDS cases by age group and sex as at December 31st, 2006 was highest between the age groups of 15 and 44, reaching totals of 1000 (HIRU). According to a survey conducted with 260 Bahamian adolescents assessing their knowledge attitudes and beliefs about AIDS, 96% of the combined sample recognized that males can transmit the AIDS virus to females during unprotected sex. Moreover, 93% of females can transmit the AIDS virus to males during unprotected sex.
Furthermore, 94% of the combined sample recognized that the AIDS virus can be transmitted through heterosexual relations. In addition, Rodgers and Rolle state that only 32% of the sexually active combined sample ensured that they always used condoms during sex. This means that 68% of the sexually active adolescents in this survey are conducting in unprotected sex which can very well, lead to AIDS. It is evident that in this age group, these is reckless and irresponsible engagement in sexual activity which has led to the dangerous AIDS epidemic.
After interviewing Ms. Sandra Smith, age 21, it was found that she was a prime example of a young Bahamian engaging in reckless unprotected sex adding to the AIDS epidemic. Ms. Smith said, “I was 20 when I found out I had AIDS. I have about six serious partners before I got tested. I had sex with them all without using protection”. When Ms. Smith was asked why she did not use a condom she responded by saying, “I really do not know why I did not use a condom. I guess it was all in the heat of the moment.
It was all fun, at the time”! Ms. Smith ended the interview by saying that, “I regret doing what I did, my stupid actions, not using protection. It is the reason that I have AIDS. I am not proud of my actions but it is the truth. I have AIDS and I will probably live a short life because I had unprotected sex”. Additionally, Bahamians are ignorant to the dangers of AIDS. Many Bahamians believe that they cannot contract HIV, that AIDS will never be a reality to them. There was also a self-efficiency test conducted in the survey.
It was found the 87% of the respondents believed that they could prevent themselves from getting AIDS by using different contraceptives. Many Bahamians are ignorant to the ways that they can contract AIDS. “HIV is spread through unprotected sex with an HIV infected person (intercourse without a condom), transfusions of unscreened blood, and it can also spread from an infected woman to her child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding”. Many Bahamians are uneducated of these ways that HIV can be contracted.
This is not only the fault of the person but also in schools. Schools in the Bahamas do not educate students enough about the dangers of contracting HIV which causes AIDS. If AIDS is the leading cause of death in Bahamians ages 15-44, why is AIDS education not a priority in the school curriculum? Also, there is not enough parental guidance in homes to advise students about the dangers of AIDS. Bahamians do not believe that AIDS is as dangerous as it really is. In addition, Bahamians are reluctant to get tested and treated for AIDS.
Bahamians have proven to be judgmental and this has an effect on why people have been reluctant in getting tested and treated for AIDs. Society outcasts people that are infected with the AIDS virus so to avoid being alienated, they refrain from being tested. However, there has been change. Several local HIV/AIDS organizations have been identified by the US President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to receive special training from US non-profit organization, World Learning.
Among the organizations selected are The Bahamas Red Cross Society, The Bahamas AIDS Foundation, Bahamas United Initiatives Ltd. and the Bahamas Urban Youth Development Centre. “The main goals of the special training include: educating people, especially youth, about HIV/AIDS and thereby preventing its spread; reducing stigma and encouraging safe practices for those living with the disease; and supporting communities to cooperate in fighting the epidemic” (“Local AIDS Organizations Receive Training” ).
Also, “in 2002, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) began as the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative to address the HIV/AIDS crisis in the developing world and strengthen health systems there” (“Clinton Health Access Initiative”). CHAI works closely with different governments around the world discussing the health systems, market prices of medicine and treatment and technologies. CHAI has helped reduce the cost of their medicines to around $100 to $200 per person per year in many countries.
Additionally, there are now tests for HIV in Antenatal Women, Blood Donors and STI Clients. “The prevalence of HIV in antenatal patients is 2%. The overall HIV prevalence rate for The Bahamas is 3%” (The National HIV/AIDS Center). CHAI also has a program to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child. These organizations work together and individually to provide the medications and treatments for AIDS at a low cost or no cost to ensure the health of many. A major cause of death of Bahamians in the age group 15 to 44 is AIDS.
This is a result of unprotected sex, ignorance and the reluctancy to get tested and treated. However, in this new day and age, there are many advancements in technology and AIDS is not as major a threat it was 2 years ago. Although there are many factors contributing to the spread of AIDS as mentioned above, the local Bahamas AIDS Foundation and The Clinton Health Access Initiative are major organizations in the development of treatments and testing for AIDS. These organizations are fast moving toward the cure for AIDS.
“AVERTing HIV and AIDS”. . N. p. N. d. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. Clinton Health Access Initiative. . N. d. N. p. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. Health Information & Research Unit (HIRU), Ministry of Health. Cumulative Number of Reported HIV Infections, By Sex. Chart. Nassau: Ministry of Health, 31 Dec 2011. Health Information & Research Unit (HIRU), Ministry of Health. Cumulative Number of Reported HIV Infections With Current Status. Chart. Nassau: Ministry of Health, 31 Dec 2011. “Joining With U. S to fight AIDS”. The Tribune (Nassau) 10 Oct. 2012. Print.
“Local AIDS Organizations Receive Training”. Bahama Journal 11 Oct. 2012. Web. 12 Nov. 2012. . National HIV/AIDS Center. HIV & AIDS: In the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. Nassau: Ministry of Health, 2012. Print. National HIV/AIDS Center. Facts About A. I. D. S. Nassau: Ministry of Health, 2012 Print. Rodgers, Antoinette Y, and Carolyn C. M. Rolle. Bahamian Adolescents: A Survey of their Knowledge, Attitudes and Beliefs About AIDS. College Forum: the Research Journal of the College of the Bahamas, 9. Smith, Sandra. Personal Interview. 1 Nov. 2012.