Risk - Taking Behavior and Substance Abuse Vis-a-Vis HIV Transmission in African Societies

Article excerpt

The paper gives a brief synopsis of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in several African countries. It looks at the general causes of the spread of the epidemic and zeroed in on risk behaviors perpetrated by young adults in African societies. Those discussed include promiscuity, rape, unprotected and often casual, heterosexual relationships, drinking of alcohol and smoking of cigarettes and marijuana. The author points to the fact that intravenous drug usage [IDU] and the use of heroin and cocaine is not common in most African countries sampled, but stresses that there is dire need for research that can investigate the correlation between IDUsers and HIV transmission in African societies. This could begin in any of the relatively `advanced' African countries.

Africa is currently believed in international circles to be the continent with the highest prevalence and transmission of HIV/ AIDS infection. According to a United Nations[UNICEF] report on AIDS released in June 2000, Africa has an estimated 24.5 million people living with AIDS out of the 34.3 million affected by the incurable disease worldwide. 70% of people infected with HIV are from sub-Saharan Africa; with four million new infections in 1999. The estimates added that HIV infects every minute at least six people between the age 15 and 24 years. However, it has been estimated that the countries north of the Sahara record the lowest while the highest records of HIV prevalence not only in Africa but in the world are found in the countries of Southern Africa, East African and then West African countries in that order [Maganu, 2000].

The UN report indicated that Botswana leads with a HIV prevalence rate estimated 35.8% among adults and children in the world.

Table 1 shows the pervasiveness of HIV/AIDS pandemic in some African countries.

Table 1
Prevalence of HIV/AIDS in some African
societies [United Nations Annual Report on
HIV/AIDS, 1999]

Serial   Country          Female   Male   Cumulative

1        Botswana         34       16     35.8
2        Lesotho          26       12     23.57
3        South Africa     25       11     19.94
4        Zimbabwe         25       11     25.06
5        Namibia          20        9.1   19.94
6        Zambia           18        8.2   19.94
7        Malawi           16        7.0   15.96
8        Mozambique       15        6.7   13.22
9        C.African.Rep    14        6.9   13.84
10       Kenya            13        6.4   13.95
11       Ethiopia         12        5.7
12       Burundi          12        5.7   11.32
13       Rwanda           11        5.2   11.21
14       Cote d'Ivoire     9.5      3.8   11.76
15       Tanzania          8.1      4.0    8.39
16       Cameroon          7.8      3.8    7.73
17       Uganda            7.8      3.8    8.3
18       Congo             6.5      3.2    6.43
19       B/Faso            6.5      5.8
20       Togo              5.5      2.3
21       D.R.Congo/Nig.    5.1      2.1    5.06
22       Chad                              2.7
23       Benin Rep                         2.2
24       Swaziland                        25.25

But at the moment, Nigeria's estimated 2.6 million adolescent and adult populations living with HIV has been rated the highest in West Africa and ranked second after Ethiopia in Sub Saharan Africa (Jimoh, 2000). In high-incidence countries, such as Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa, the maximum HIV prevalence ever attained by sentinel, ranged from 30.4 to 70.2 percent between 1994 and 1996. (Maganu, 2000). The AIDS toll in high-incidence countries is altering the economic and social fabric of the society. HIV/AIDS will kill more than one third of the young adults of countries where it has its firmest hold. For instance the UNAIDS report for 1999 predicted a pyramid population may be in place in Botswana by 2020. As at now, it seems the global response is still just a fraction of what it could be. …