AIDS AND THE MEDIA BY AFARI CHRISTIAN
It is with tremendous pain for all of us to note that in spite of the advancement of technology in the medical field, there hasnt been any significant discovery for the cure for the HIV virus that causes Aids. The rate at which the HIV/AIDS is spreading is so alarming that drastic and revolutionary measures in research should be taken and encouraged. Gone were the days when the developed world harbored the vague notion that it was not their problem. Now it is everyones problem. Looking back after twenty year's since the first case of HIV/AIDS was discovered, one wonders what next if by the next ten to twenty years a cure is not discovered. Statistically, 39% million adults and children are living with HIV/AIDS as at the end of the year 2000. Concerning infected adults, 47.3% are women. Sadly enough, since the beginning of the epidemic there has been 21.8 million Aids death all over the world.
I chose HIV/AIDS as my term paper because of the enormous damage it is doing to our society especially in Africa with special reference to South Africa. Before I move on further I would like to ask a question has the media done enough globally as far as bringing awareness? The answer to this question is that in the developed world, it is positive but not at all in the third world countries like Africa and the Caribbeans. The role of the media in advancing awareness of the HIV virus and Aids in the third world is of paramount importance. However, it is interesting to note that the media in most under developed countries are either totally or partially regulated or supervised by the government. Under such circumstances, it is very difficult at times for the media to play its normal role. Restrictions on the media is highly enforced and only programs that further the government in power are mostly broadcast.
The history of Aids dates as far back as 1981 when an unusual infection were
identified in a small number of homosexual men in California and New York. The
infection responded poorly to therapy and ended in the death of the patients.
Because none of the patients suffered from any condition known to predispose
the infection, physicians concluded that the patient has developed an illness
never be fore described in medical literature. The new condition became known
as the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or simply AIDS.
As we all know the transmission comes through numerous ways. Unsafe practices with high risk of HIV transmission include:
1. Numerous sex partners
2. Unprotected and receptive sex with an infected partner
3. Oral and anal contact
4. Unprotected and penetrating with hand. "Fisting"
5. Vaginal intercourse without a condom with an infected partner.
6. Sharing of needles among IV drug pushers who are infected with the virus.
7. Breast milk of an infected mother.
8. Homosexual gay and lesbian.
Notably, the principal routes for HIV transmission is through three routes; sexual exposure, contact with blood contaminated with HIV and transmission from a mother to a child through pregnancy and birth.
Now switching to the pathetic situation in South Africa imagine your life this way, you get up one morning and have breakfast with your three children. Your husband works a hundred miles away and comes home twice a year and sleeps around in between. You risk your life in every act of sexual intercourse. You go to work past a house where a teenager lives alone tending her siblings without any source of income. At another house, the wife is branded a whore and when she asked her husband to use condom, shes beaten up and thrown into the street. Over there lies a man desperately sick without access to a doctor or clinic or medicine or food or blankets or even a kind word. At work you eat with colleagues and every third one is already fatally ill. You whisper about a friend who is admitted she had the plague and whose neighbors stoned her to death. Your leisure is occupied by the funeral you attend every weekend. You go to bed fearing that adults your age will not live to see their forties. You and your neighbors and your political and popular leaders act as if nothing is happening. This particularly in part sums up the picture in South Africa.
The higher incidence of HIV is attributed to numerous reasons. These problems ranges from the higher rate of malnutrition, poverty, ignorance, lack of education and media support, outmoded marriage custom, fear of society branded outcast, lack of adequate medical facilities, rape, unprotected sex and intercourse and stupid cultural beliefs. The entire problems mentioned is which fuels the wheels of HIV/AIDS epidemic. As the HIV virus sweeps mercilessly through South Africa, a few try to address the issue. Stupidly and shameful enough the South African president was quoted as saying that Aids is not caused by the HIV virus.
Even though avoidance or risk behavior s from HIV transmission and use of barrier methods remain the most effective means reducing HIV infection, in South Africa you cannot define risk groups. Every one who is sexually active is at risk. Most people do not know how and when they caught the virus, many never know they have it and many who do know never tell any one as they lay dying. Since their immune systems have been destroyed most of the affected people also have serious illnesses like pneumonia T.B meningitis and diarrhea.
In South Africa, the issue of rape is a very serious one. Countless young girls and women each day in the cites and rural areas are raped. It is believed that most of these men who rape these women are either HIV positive or have the full-blown Aids. The government is down playing the importance of this issue, which is one of the alarming, reasons for the spread of HIV virus. Some government officials have openly said that the rape incidence in South Africa is insignificant to the spread of the virus.
Another important way by which the HIV/AIDS is spreading is the fact that majority of the sexually active people fail to use condoms. Most of the men feel that condoms deprive them of the excessive enjoyment during intercourse. There are others who feel condoms are solely for the white man and not the black race. Unprotected sex outside marriage is dangerous and most men in South Africa care less because they feel it is a form of entertainment.
Furthermore, prostitution is another solid reason for the spread of HIV. Most young girls and women go into prostitution because of poverty. Generally speaking South Africa is a country of poverty and this drives people especially women to indulge in allsorts of immoral practices just to survive. One of the survival techniques they adopt is prostitution, which appears to be the easiest way out but in reality the deadliest. Having sex with numerous people without protection and without their medical history is dangerous. Supposing one of these men is infected with HIV or Aids, automatically you are unknowingly going to be a spreading machine.
Anal intercourse, which is slowly gaining popularity in South Africa, is another way the diseases are being spread. Most people are tying all sorts of alternative sex practices. Some South African men have been known to be sleeping around with same sex partners as well as opposite sex partners anally and this has contributed greatly to the spread of the disease. Anal intercourse includes the exchange of bodily fluids such as blood.
Even though avoidance of the risk behaviors from HIV transmission and use of barrier methods remain the most effective means of reducing HIV infection, in South Africa you cannot define the risk groups; everyone who is sexually active is at great risk. Most people do not know how and when they caught the virus, many never know if they have it, and many who know, never tell anyone as they lay dying. Since their immune systems have been destroyed, most of these affected people also have serious illness like pneumonia, tuberculosis, meningitis and diarrhea.
Ignorance is the crucial reason the epidemic has run out of control. Recent surveys did prove that people have accepted the fact that Aids is a sexually transmitted disease but sadly, most of the South Africans do not think the risk applies to them. Unfortunately their vague knowledge does not change their sexual behavior. It is easy to see why so many dont yet sense the danger when few talk openly about the disease. In certain cultures in South Africa revealing that you are HIV positive or that you have Aids is not an easy pill to swallow. You have to be very careful who you reveal this sensitive information to because there is still such stigma attached to the word "aids". It does not matter how much your family or friends love you there are others out there who are simply ignorant of all the facts surrounding this disease. The disease takes a much toll on the people who live with it and people who love and care for them because of the stigma attached to it not so much because of grievances of the illness itself. All over South Africa the dying people say the sickness afflicting their families and neighbors is just the familiar consequences of their eternal poverty and perhaps witchcraft. You have done something bad and have been bewitched. Your neighbors jealousy has invaded you. You have not appeased the spirits of your ancestors and they have cursed you. Some South Africans believe the disease was introduced by the white population as a way to control the black Africans after the end of apartheid.
The media in South Africa in my view has not done enough through television, radio education about abstinence and other related issues that causes Aids. The recent comments that the HIV does not cause Aids by the president of South Africa raised a lot of eyebrows. Here, the international media was very swift in attacking the president but the local media was silent. This shows how much the governments of most third world countries influence the media. Aids in south Africa has never commanded the full response the West has brought to others, sometimes lesser travails. We pay sporadic attention turning on the spot light when an international conference occurs; then turning it off. Good-hearted donors donate. Government acknowledges that more needs to be done. But think how different the effort would be if what were happening here were happening in the West.
The recent pledge of 1.3 billion by the U.S. to the global fund was a step in the right direction. At the United Nations recently, entertainer Harry Bellefonte warned that dealing with the Aids crises, as a distant problem is a tragic mistake that will cost lives. He went on to say that "there is an indifference here in the united states of enormous proportions that is very, very troubling: he went on to say that in South Central Los Angeles in California, 27% of thee black community youth in that place have HIV/Aids. Be careful what fingers you point because three are pointing back at you," he said. The international media should do more to bring the plight of South African people to the light so that they can be helped. Locally, the media can encourage the people to practice safe sex with the use of condoms. Health care workers can also be sent out to the rural areas to educate ignorant people who are stuck with their outmoded cultural beliefs. With the help of the media, churches can also play an important role such as offering shelter, teaching the people how to be strong, offering food and providing lots of encouragement.
In the Zulu tribe of South Africa the practice of virginity testing is once again regaining popularity among anxious mothers who believe that if their daughters remain virgins they wont get Aids. The government of South Africa has said that it cannot provide drugs to prevent pregnant women from passing HIV to their babies. This even made the situation worse. It is my hope that the developed countries will come to aid of South Africa. South Africa is like a voice crying in the wilderness for help.
In conclusion, the South African government should start tackling the problem of HIV/Aids seriously. The South African government cant do it alone, it definitely needs help. The developed countries in the West should wake up from their sleep and come to the aid of South Africa. The Western worlds can help by contributing towards building HIV/Aids facilities for affected people to come and associate with other people. The media in developed countries can advocate for contributions to help South African people from wealthy individuals, organization and various groups in the entire world. If Aids patients cant be cured they can at least be made to feel comfortable until their death. A country like America provides hospice care to the Aids affected people it wouldnt such a bad idea if the Western worlds contributed to provide institutions like this to the South African people. Aids is a world wide problem and not an African one. We should all stand together to fight this epidemic.
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