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Explain the social and economic effects of the spread of AIDS in Asian and African countries.

Focus Question: What were the social and economic effects of HIV/AIDS in Asian and African countries?

Topics on this page

Medical Facts
Social Effects
Economic Impacts

December 1 is World AIDS Day external image Map-of-HIV-Prevalance-in-Africa.png

primary_sources.PNGMorbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers ongoing information about infectious diseases in the United States and around the world.

external image 200px-Hebrew_timeline_rus.svg.pngA Timeline of AIDS from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
primary_sources.PNGTIME Article about the AIDS epidemic in Africa

Medical Background

  • The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a retrovirus that infects cells of the human immune system, destroying or impairing their function. In the early stages of infection the person has no symptoms. However, as the infection progresses, the immune system becomes weaker and the person becomes more susceptible to opportunistic infections.
  • The most advanced stage of HIV infection is Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). It can take 10-15 years for an HIV-infected person to develop AIDS. Still, antiretroviral drugs can slow down the process even further.
  • HIV is transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse (anal or vaginal), transfusion of contaminated blood, sharing of contaminated needles, and between a mother and her infant during pregnancy, childbirth and breast feeding.
  • Click here for an HIV/AIDS Fact Sheet from the United Nations.

primary_sources.PNGIn Their Own Words. . . NIH Researchers Recall the Early Years of AIDS from the National Institute of Health.
Multimedia.pngHeartbreaking Ted Talk, The Face of AIDS in Africa, from a photographer who tells the stories of those with HIV/AIDS through their pictures.

AIDS is a pressing social problem in Africa
AIDS is a pressing social problem in Africa

Basic description of HIV/AIDS taken from the World Health Organization
The AIDS epidemic in Asia and Africa has not only visibly ravaged communities of the two continents, but has had severe implications on the economic prosperity and the social structures of the societies.

Social Effects:
  • Nearly two-thirds of all people living with HIV are found in sub-Saharan Africa, and in the Asia Pacific region, one in five people were living with HIV/AIDS in 2001.

  • HIV/AIDS is not just a public health issue, but problems that increasingly affect every aspect of life: family structure, education, labor force, health care sector, and even the economic growth of the entire country.

Stylized rendering of a cross-section of HIV.
Stylized rendering of a cross-section of HIV.

  • HIV/AIDS typically has had the greatest impact on the most productive age groups in the society--15 to 40 years.

  • Perpetually, the expectation of coping with the troubles in the household lies with women. Upon a family member becoming ill, the role of women as care-givers, income-earners and housekeepers becomes more prominent. This often means that they have to step into roles outside their homes as well. When mothers are infected, great hardships are placed on the structure of the family. Dependent children are affected immeasurably by the illness and death of parents or care providers resulting in inadequate access to food and nutrition, decline in educational attainment, inability to receive the nurturing/care necessary for healthy growth and maturation, and even orphanage. Click here to read about the link between HIV and women's rights.

  • Scientific Study says that AIDS education in Uganda is "working."

Multimedia.pngFrom CBS, South Africa still haunted by the AIDS stigma.

Economic Impacts:
  • The age groups most impacted (15-40) generally account for peak incomes in the household, so the loss of their income has had a tremendous impact on the household. Not only does illness from the virus prohibit those potential income earners from working, it often times leads to a reduction in household income because other members have to take care of sick family.

  • A study in South Africa found that already poor households coping with members who are sick from HIV or AIDS were reducing spending on necessities even further. The most likely expenses to be cut were clothing (21%), electricity (16%) and other services (9%). Falling incomes forced about 6% of households to reduce the amount they spent on food and almost half of households reported having insufficient food at times (click here for more information).

  • In the Potential Economic Impact of AIDS in the Asia and the Pacific, it notes that "the disease is reversing annual economic growth by one to two percentage points in the worst affected countries. Economic wealth in the form of gross national product could drop in some areas by as much as 40 percent by 2020.2 Translated to a country like Malaysia, Thailand or Indonesia this is a sum worth billions of dollars." Additionally, "it is thought that the yearly impact of AIDS on sub-Saharan Africa‚Äôs gross domestic product (GDP) is a loss of 1%"--as time and the virus progresses, this will amount to the loss of billions of dollars.

Multimedia.pngAnother Ted Talk, Flip Your Thinking on AIDS in Africa, from an economist who re-examines the AIDS stats in Africa and looks at it from an economic perspective.
primary_sources.PNG1999 study on the economic effects of AIDS in Africa

Graph showing the percentage of people living with AIDS in Africa and Asia 2003

For more in depth information on the effects AIDS has had on Africa, please visit the following websites:

http://www.afro.who.int/press/2005/pr20050126.htm l