HIV is a transmittable disease, which stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The disease is only effective in the human body it dies quickly anywhere else. The virus attacks the human immune system making it vulnerable and more susceptible to contracting other diseases, which the body can’t fight off. When the body can no longer fight off illness or disease, this is known as AIDS, Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome.
Once you have contracted HIV/AIDS the outcome is inevitable, death. No one who has contracted HIV has ever escaped it developing into AIDS, and no one who has contracted AIDS has ever escaped death. The diseases can be contracted in many ways but the main ways of contracting the infection are through:
HIV has many effects, and as the disease is a world wide pandemic this means that there are different effects in different countries and especially between more economically developed countries (MEDC’s) and less economically developed countries (LEDC’s).
In MEDC’s, the some problems come with the social aspect. If a person is known to have the disease then they are often out cast from society. This is mainly because of fear that if you are close to the AIDS victim then you could catch the disease, however this isn’t true, only if you swap bodily fluids are you at risk of contracting the disease. People also distance themselves from the victims family and they too can become out cast from society, this includes the victims children who often lose friends at school from what people tell their children in fear of them also catching the disease.
The main problems in MEDC’s are in the economic aspect. AIDS victims often don’t or are unable to work, meaning that they rely on government support to help them fund for essentials i.e. food, clothing. The government also pay for the treatment and drugs that the victims receive which is often in excess of ï¿½10 000 a year, this cost escalates to very high levels when you consider the number of AIDS victims in a country for example the USA.
This leads to a lower output of the country and therefore a lower GDP. Other problems that AIDS victims suffer from is the inability to gain life insurance, this means that relatives have no means of income from the death of the AIDS victim and therefore have to struggle financially. It also means that the AIDS victim is unable to obtain a mortgage an therefore can’t buy there own place to live and will have to rent a place or move in with someone else.
In LEDC’s the problems are worse than in MEDC’s because there is not as much support from the government. In a typical LEDC the problems cause many knock on effects. Here is an example of the problems caused by a AIDS victim contracting the disease who used to work on a farm as part of the family business. The illness of a family member means that there is the direct loss of productive labour on the farm, it also means there are medical expenses to look after the ill and diversion of productive labour to care for the AIDS victim. This causes a decline in parental care, especially for 0 – 4 year olds who need extra attention.
Reduction in crop and livestock yields as the family have lost at least two family members because of a family member contracting AIDS. To redeem some of the reduction in crop yields, the family may revert to planting less labour intensive crops and increase the number of working hours. This causes the family to suffer from under nutrition from working harder and eating less nutritional foods. There is also a reduction in purchased food e.g. meat and fish as there is a greater expenditure from medical expenses and less income from the lack of at least two working bodies on the farm. Children are often taken out of school to help work on the land and so that the families do not have to fund for the education. Due to lack of funds there is also a reduction in purchased inputs for farmers (herbicide, pesticides etc) and this leads to an increased labour demand at given level of production.
The social impact in LEDC’s is not as great as in MEDC’s as the disease is more common and therefore more widely accepted, however the economic aspects are far worse as the economic problems in LEDC’s are already horrific. In LEDC’s the governments often can’t or will not pay for the drugs and treatment to help the AIDS victim live a longer life due to the fact that they are already in so much debt and this adds pressures on the families to try and find some sort of support for the victim. To help reduce the effects of AIDS and to help the victims become more comfortable in their later life there have been many management strategies set up. Again, like the effects of the disease, the strategies vary country to country but more importantly between LEDC’s and MEDC’s.
There are six ways in which the governments are trying to manage the disease they are as follows: Finding a vaccine – although this seems unlikely and any chance of this happening is very rare research continues and it is believed that the white blood cells in some people may hold the key to some form of anti-body, which will prevent the contraction of the disease. It is believed that one African prostitute could have what researchers are looking for as she claims to have had intercourse with more than 5000 AIDS carrying males without using protection and has failed to contract the disease. If such a vaccine did become available, MEDC’s would have the luxury of its availability first and it could take time and money till the vaccine is readily available across the LEDC’s.
Prolonging life through drugs – drugs such as AZT and nevirapine are available to help AIDS victims live longer and more comfortably in the later stages of their life. These drugs are expensive and so are only really available to those living in MEDC’s. There is some hope of cheaper generic variations of these drugs becoming available to those in LEDC’s however the cost will still be out of the reach of many governments and families.
Plotting the course of outbreaks – this means that governments and councils can target areas where outbreaks are becoming more frequent and can help introduce prevention methods to prevent the outbreak taking any further action. Screening of blood- is where blood is looked at before used in transfusions to ensure it is not carrying the HIV virus so it could be passed on. Education and advertising – is probably the most important way of preventing the disease spreading further, by advertising the importance of safe sex and teaching how to perform safe sex, the risk of increased infection is reduced dramatically, however it is not always very productive in LEDC’s as many do not have TV’s and do not see the advertising and have no way of attending educational classes or learning about how to perform safe sex.
Caring for victims and families – which involve agencies and charities helping to care for the victims and their families, although readily available in MEDC’s the LEDC’s often don’t have such luxuries. As the HIV/AIDS virus is relatively new to the world we won’t see the full effect of these strategies for many years, however the signs so far are positive and although the number of AIDS cases is increasing the rates of increase have slowed down dramatically and this is a major step in the right direction, we may never see a world without AIDS again but if we can contain the disease at least this offers protection from the disease and as technology continues to improve one day the long awaited vaccine could be available and this would solve the tragic problems that we face with the AIDS virus still about.