“The global HIV/AIDS epidemic is an unprecedented crisis that requires an unprecedented response. In particular it requires solidarity — between the healthy and the sick, between rich and poor, and above all, between richer and poorer nations. We have 30 million orphans already. How many more do we have to get, to wake up?”– Kofi Annan
Author’s note: World AIDS Day is tomorrow December 1. In honor of this important day, I am collaborating with a woman named Esther from Nigeria. Although we’ve never met, we have a lot in common. We are both mothers and are both activists for a grassroots organization called RESULTS whose mission is to end global poverty. We may live oceans apart, yet we share the same hope of using our voice to spread awareness about the devastating impact of AIDS. I am including this post in the “WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections” in hope to get more readership on this important topic and also ask readers to reflect on the impact of AIDS. Here is her story.
The impact of AIDS over the last twenty years has been devastating in many ways. It is estimated that over nearly 30 million people have died from AIDS-related causes since the beginning of the epidemic (UNAID 2010 report).
HIV/AIDS has torn apart families leaving millions of orphans, many HIV positive themselves, to be raised by grandparents or other family members. HIV/AIDS has infected women and children in alarmingly disproportionate amounts as well leaving them to live in lives of illness, death, uncertainty, stigma, isolation and fear. People who have HIV are also at risk of developing another deadly disease: Tuberculosis (TB). Per the World Health Organization, “The risk of developing tuberculosis (TB) is estimated to be between 20-37 times greater in people living with HIV than among those without HIV infection. In 2010, there were 8.8 million new cases of TB, of which 1.1 million were among people living with HIV.” Combining HIV-TB together is a deadly mix further complicating efforts to save lives of people infected with HIV. TB is also highly contagious thus can be passed on quite easily from person to person through droplets in the air.
As World AIDS Day approaches it is time to reflect on how far we’ve come and remember that we still have more to go. Fifty thousand people are still infected with HIV each year in the United States, and in other places in the world, particularly in Africa, the crisis rages on much like it did in the US in the 1980s and 90s. Millions of people still dying of the infection, only half the people who need treatment have access to it, and TB, a curable disease, is still responsible for one in four AIDS deaths.
“History will judge us on how we respond to the AIDS emergency in Africa….whether we stood around with watering cans and watched while a whole continent burst into flames….or not.” – Bono
“We want the world to focus on children whose lives have been devastated by AIDS. The millions of children who are missing their parents; their childhood, their future but most importantly, they are missing YOU. Everyone can make a real difference. Your voice is needed in a global movement that can change their world.” – Pierce Brosnan
How have you and/or your community been affected by TB and HIV?
- TB and HIV infections reduce productivity and the ability of the individual to contribute to the development of the community. The person infected becomes a burden on his family and the community because his economic power would have been reduced drastically. This is worse if the person infected is the breadwinner of his family.
- According to Ms Abimbola Esther Martin, “… as a widow; I was unable to care for my children as their care was taken over by friends and family of my late husband. This affected my relationship with my children as we were no longer staying together as a family” My sickness also resulted in the loss of my job as I was looked at as being risk to my colleagues and not useful to the company where I was working.
- Double burden of TB and HIV treatment
Esther: Combining TB and HIV drugs was not easy due to the increased pill burden. Some of the TB drugs are too big and therefore difficult to swallow. The side effects of the drugs like feeling too weak to stand up from the bed; vomiting and serious night sweats made my period of undergoing TB and HIV treatment a harrowing one.
Esther: The stigma related to TB infection is further worsened when a person known to be HIV-positive is found out to be also infected with TB. This gives people more reasons to stigmatize TB/HIV co-infected people. Stigma is experienced from immediate family members, the community and healthcare workers.
How has the Global Fund been able to address TB and/or HIV in your community/country?
The Global Fund is funding Community TB Care activities in Nigeria which has helped thousands of people with TB to access treatment and care. Effective TB treatment also contributes to reducing the risk of the spread of TB in the community from people who would have otherwise been undiagnosed. The Global Fund funds HIV treatment in various ART centres in Nigeria thereby helping to prolong the lives of many persons living with HIV.
Esther: Thank God, I’m alive today because of the Global Fund. I believe that I would have been in the grave today of I didn’t have access to TB and HIV treatment which were provided through the Global Fund. My case is like being given a second chance twice over!”
What still needs to be done in order to end the epidemics in your community/country?
Esther: One area that needs greater attention with regards to preventing the spread and impact of tuberculosis is the mining sector. Many informal and formal mining communities are known to habour lots of TB cases but there is little or no focus on preventing, detecting and treating TB in these communities. The National TB Program needs to carry out surveys in these special populations and ensure that services are made available among them. People die there daily while the world looks on.
“Every minute of every day, a child under 15 is infected with HIV – the overwhelming majority of children under 15 who are HIV-positive get infected through their mothers at birth. Without treatment, half of these children die before they reach their second birthday.”
– Gabriel Byrne
Now, its time for you to reflect. Please support World AIDS Day by sharing Esther’s story. It’s time to put an end to AIDS.
This post was written in response to World AIDS Day as well as the WordPress Weekly Challenge: Reflections.