AIDS has become a national epidemic in Zambia. The very first case was reported in 1984, but the number of Zambians with AIDS has grown considerably. One of the reasons for the increase is because then-President Kaunda had not addressed the spreading disease, having kept it a secret, until his son died of AIDS, after which he retracted his policy of secrecy and announced that AIDS was a national problem.
President Mwanawasa openly declared AIDS as a widespread disease and vowed to medically treat over 10,000 aids patients with the antiretroviral drug. Today, one in five adults has AIDS and, as of 2007, 98,000 are being treated with the anti retroviral drug. This number is especially concentrated among women and young girls, especially between the ages of fifteen and twenty four. Children, overall, have been greatly impacted by the spreading disease. In 2009, Zambia reported 801,000 children with AIDS; they are often abandoned because of their condition. Unfortunately, only 23% of Zambians are reaching out to Volunteer Counseling and Testing (VCT) centers, which means that far more might be infected. In 2007, the number of AIDS deaths was counted at 96,000.
AIDS affects every aspect of the nation. With poverty being so profound around the country, the number of people dying of the disease is high, leaving the country with few workers and entrepreneurs. The AIDS epidemic is even more appalling when juxtaposed against the life expectancy of 39 years, which is rather low in light of the life expectancy of about 74 years in the United States and other affluent countries. The gap for AIDS treatment centers, especially in rural areas where there is a high of patients afflicted with AIDS, and access to medicine also contributes to the spread of AIDS.
The government has been fighting the spread of AIDS with educational outreach in order to do away with misconceptions about how AIDS is spread and misplacement of shame. Christian organizations, by collaborating with the government and promoting condom use, have also helped to change Zambians' misgivings about openly discussing it and seeking treatment. However, there have been problems with AIDS funding. Internal government corruption created a ripe environment for embezzling funds allocated to AIDS treatment from aid donors, causing them all (Sweden, Canada, the Netherlands) to suspend funding until internal oversight improves. When this will be is up to the Zambian government, but is a moratorium in funding the right approach? AIDS funding should be issued through INGO intermediaries (i.e. International Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders) because AIDS patients should not suffer unnecessarily due to corruption in their government. Treatment should continue, which is only possible with adequate funding. Clearly, and for obvious reason, the national poverty should be confronted with economic development, not by plunging needed medical funding.
I must say, when I began to read about the gravity of the AIDS epidemic, the data was disconcerting. Thinking about peoples' suffering from having the disease and their struggle to get proper treatment, not to mention the feeling of isolation they experience from being ostracized, was even more depressing in light of the news about government corruption.
I recommend visiting these notable websites for further information about the AIDS epidemic:
Fundraising note - thank you, Gary Patry, for your recent contribution of $50.00. I have also just sent the money I raised over Christmas to Canada today. The total money raised is now at $230! Only $1,763 to go before February 17th, 2011.CUSO-VSO fixed whatever the problem was with processing the credit card option. You can now do that just to make it easy for you to contribute.
Thank you to all of you, too, for reading my blogs during this crunch time. Remember, only $10 per person goes a long, long, way.