Imagine, in your daily life, that one in three of those you come into contact with are wasting away with disease. Imagine seeing children taking care of other children, in a region where as many as 16% of children (almost 15 million) will lose their parents to this disease. And imagine living in a place where this disease is so rampant that the average life expectancy is under 49 years of age. This insidious killer? AIDS.
When a person contracts the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the complex protective power of immunity is compromised. HIV infects a specialized immune cell called CD4+ T- Lymphocytes, or T-helper cells. The infection and subsequent death of these cells essentially destroys the ability of the immune system to recognize and disable invading pathogens. The result, as HIV spreads throughout its victim’s body, is loss of the vital immune strength that we depend on, a condition known as Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). This leaves its victims vulnerable to debilitating and ultimately fatal diseases, cancers, and opportunistic infections.
In the whole world, Sub-Saharan Africa has been hit the hardest, by far. To paint the picture with numbers, it is estimated that 69% of all AIDS patients live in Africa. Nine in ten children born with HIV live in Sub-Saharan Africa. The countries in this region with the highest incidence have 28-33.8% of their population inflicted with AIDS, as compared to 0.5% of the population in North America. The World Health Organization estimates that drug treatment only reaches 49% of those that need it, including HIV+ pregnant women.
But, there is good news. In recent years, this difficult situation has been improving — a trend that points to hope for more change. AIDS patients receiving drug therapy for HIV in the region increased by about 30% between 2009 and 2010 – from nearly 4 million to more than 5 million patients.The prevalence of HIV among adolescents in the region has decreased – from 10.3% in 2005 to 8.7% in 2008. Thankfully, this problem is a focal point of many effective international non-profits, such as Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, UNAIDS, the PeaceCorps, and Oxfam, just to name a few.
There have also been tremendous, unrelenting efforts by these communities themselves. Grassroots organizations are crucial in addressing this or any issue facing the developing world. These local, organically conceived movements are culturally appropriate and are best equipped to effectively address the problems the communities face. Especially because the issue of AIDS has a personal nature with cultural ties, these grassroots efforts offer such beautiful hope. Many are focused on prevention and educational efforts, and they’re effective too. For an example, Love Life, based in South Africa, focuses on HIV prevention education and resources for adolescents. G.R.A.C.E, a project starting in a church in Kenya, equips people with tools to offer home-based care for AIDS patients, as well as preventative counseling and awareness.
Those inflicted with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa live with such strength and resilience in the face of adversity, and there has been a lot of progress as far as availability of treatment and new infection rates. There is also the hope for more change, and much to be done. Do Good Lab has established partnerships with several grassroots movements targeting the issue of AIDS. One of these is Global Hope Mobilization, an NGO based in Malawi tackling this issue and others facing their community. Stay tuned for more information highlighting the efforts of Do Good Lab’s grassroots partners, and more about how YOU can be a part of this movement for change.
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This post was written by Do Good Lab volunteer Rebecca Brander. If you would like to know more about this topic and would like to get involved in our work email us at <http://www.privatedaddy.com?q=CV1FbT59SxMPFSRieGJ0Pylpd1kwSXNs_19>.