On and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS). Since that

On January 15th, 1981
in New York City, Nick Rock became the first known and recognized death due to human
immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS). Since
that day, 70 million people have been diagnosed with the disease and about 35
million have died because of it. At the end of 2016, roughly 36.7 million
people were living with HIV/AIDS globally (Peace Corps, 2017). HIV, the virus
that generates AIDS, is one of the of the world’s most significant health and
development issues having an impact on men, women, and children of all ages.

The consequences associated with HIV/AIDS are twofold. Primarily, there is the
large amount of people who suffer from the health consequences that take a
massive toll on the human body, almost always resulting in death. However, an
issue that is not always recognized is the lack of public funding or
ineffectiveness in raising awareness of HIV/AIDS. This essay will accentuate
the global impact of HIV/AIDS, how the disease is spreading, the current
medicines and treatment for HIV/AIDS, the socioeconomic factors of the disease,
and the root issue of lack of awareness globally.

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The key to understanding
the ramifications of HIV/AIDS, is knowing what the virus is and what effect it
has on the human body. HIV stands for human
immunodeficiency virus. HIV is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. Unlike
most viruses, the human body is incapable of completely getting rid of HIV
completely, thus, once you contract it, you have it for life. The HIV virus
attacks the body’s immune system, specifically CD4 cells (also referred to as T
cells), which are cells that assist the body in fighting off infection. If left
untreated, HIV will continue to reduce the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the
body, thus making the person who is affected more susceptible to contract other
infections or potentially other infection-related cancers. Over time, HIV is
able to destroy so many of these cells that the immune system is compromised
and the body is no longer able to fight off infections and disease (CDC, 2017).

Like any other virus or ailment, the rate of progression varies from person to
person depending on factors such as age, overall health, and how quickly the
disease is detected and treated accordingly. AIDS is the final stage of HIV. At
this stage, the immune system has been severely damaged and weakened, and the
risk of contracting diseases and infections is much greater. Symptoms of
HIV/AIDS are usually present at the earliest stage of the disease; however,
they are mild enough to be dismissed. Within a few months of contracting
HIV/AIDS, a person experiences flu-like symptoms that last for a few weeks with
symptoms that include but are not limited to: fever, chills, night sweats, sore
throat, swollen lymph glands, headache, muscle pain, and diarrhea (Rewari and
Chan, 2012).  

As stated previously,
HIV/AIDS is estimated to have infected 70 million people since 1981, 35 million
of who have died. These alarming statistics identify the first and most
important impact of HIV/AIDS: a large number of people who are sick and dying
from a disease whose existence wasn’t known until 1981. With a number so large,
the underlying problem becomes how so
many people are contracting this disease and where it came from. Over the last
12 years, considerable progress has been made in attempting to unravel the
events that led to HIV/AIDS. Scientists have identified the Pan troglodytes troglodytes chimpanzee from Central Africa as
the source of the HIV/AIDS infection in humans. They concurred that the
chimpanzee version of the autoimmune disorder (called simian immunodeficiency
virus, or SIV) was most likely transmitted to humans and mutated into HIV when
humans hunted these specific chimpanzees for meat and, in turn, came into
contact with their infected blood. Then, over decades, the virus spread across
Africa and slowly into other parts of the world (Pépin, 2013, pp. 473-475).

In terms of how the disease is
spreading today, there is no one answer. The HIV/AIDS virus can spread from
person to person in a variety of ways. Only certain body fluids such as blood,
semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk from a
person who has HIV/AIDS is able to transmit the disease. These fluids, in order
to transmit the disease, must come into contact with mucous membrane or damaged
tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream. There are multiples
manners in which this can happen, the most common being engaging in vaginal or
anal sex with a person who has HIV/AIDS without using a condom or taking
medicines to prevent or treat HIV/AIDS. The second most common way that
HIV/AIDS is spread is through sharing needles or syringes with someone who has
HIV/AIDS. The disease is able to live in a used needle for up to 42 days
depending on temperature and other conditions. Less commonly, HIV/AIDS is able
to spread from a mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding
(Becker and Taykhman, 2011, pp. 7-20).

There are many drugs available to
combat the HIV/AIDS virus, however, scientists have yet to discover a cure. Some
of these treatments attempt to disrupt the RNA of the HIV infected cells to
prevent them from replicating and making more HIV cells, while other treatments
focus on finding on killing off infected cells. Currently, doctors recommend
that people who have HIV/AIDS take three medications at once to lower the
impact of the disease and lessen the symptoms that come with it. They believe
that taking three medications at once will lessen the virus’s ability to adapt
to the medication, rather than taking just one medication and having the
virus’s ability to adapt move at a considerably quicker rate (Rewari and Chan,
2012).

            Indicated
previously, globally, the HIV/AIDS virus affects roughly 36.7 million people
globally. In terms of statistics, the majority of people that are living with
HIV/AIDS are in low- and middle-income countries. Sub-Saharan Africa is the
most affected region with an estimated 25.6 million people living with HIV in
2015, and the United States with 890,000. Of these two large numbers, it is estimated
that about 60% of people living with HIV/AIDS actually know their status (HHS,
2017). This raises the important issue of lack of global awareness, resources,
and education about the deadly virus. While a problem everywhere, specifically
in Africa, a lack of funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and education has caused
it to be the most prevalent area for HIV/AIDS globally. The majority of the
population in Africa does not have access to adequate health care or medical
technology that could assist them in combatting the HIV/AIDS disease.

Precautions such as avoiding sharing needles, sterilizing medical equipment,
and providing education on safe sex could prove to be effective in beginning to
educate the African population on treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS.

However, a lack of funding immensely constricts the access that a country has
to these tools and assets.

            In terms of
social aspects, HIV/AIDS has many facets. Households and families bear the
brunt of the misery caused by HIV/AIDS. Those who contract the disease, become
unable to work, forcing their family members to care for them rather than
producing income or food. According to a study on rural families in Thailand,
farm input and income fell between 52 and 67 percent in families affected by
AIDS (Parker, et al., 2010 p. 2113). The gender dynamics of HIV/AIDS are
far-reaching due to women’s generally lower social and economic status. More
women than men are caretakers of someone with HIV/AIDS which burdens them with
the responsibility of caring for that person, potentially children, and fiscal
responsibilities for their survival.

            Economically, the disease is shown
to be having a devastating effect on economic growth and income. According to
the World Bank, had the average national HIV prevalence in Africa not reached
8.6 percent in 1999, per capita income on the continent would have grown 1.1
percent, nearly three times the actual growth rate of 0.4 percent from
1990-1997. In the case of a typical sub-Saharan
African country with a prevalence rate of 20 per cent, overall GDP growth would
be 2.6 per cent lower each year. At the end of 20 years, the economy would be
two thirds smaller than it would otherwise have been (Souleymane et al., 2016).

HIV/AIDS has an impact on the work force in that it reduces the number of
healthy workers. This, in turn, raises dependency, diminishes human capital,
and can cut productivity growth. In the private sector, businesses face higher
costs in training, insurance, benefits, medical costs, sick leave, funerals and
pensions. At the same time, the average experience of their labor force falls,
reducing accumulated knowledge within businesses. One sugar estate in Kenya
quantified the cost of HIV infection as 8,000 days of labor lost to illness in
two years, a 50 per cent drop in processed sugar recovered from raw cane in
four years, and a tenfold increase in health costs. The company estimated that
more than three quarters of all illness was related to HIV infection (United
Nations, 2011).

            In
summation, the complexity of the HIV/AIDS virus drives difficulty in finding a
single, permanent solution. Because of the vast number of people who are
afflicted by HIV/AIDS, current medicines and treatments have had limited
success and are unable to completely eradicate HIV/AIDS from the human body.

Because of budgetary restraints and lack of funding, resources for HIV/AIDS
education and prevention are not a palpable/substantial asset to most
countries. Ignorance toward a population’s behaviors, economic situations, the
number of people suffering from HIV/AIDS, social situations, and negligence to
provide citizens with the necessary tools and information to be knowledgeable
about the disease and take precautions to keep themselves healthy has resulted
in making the HIV/AIDS epidemic a formidable problem globally.