Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Confronting the HIV/AIDS Crisis in Post-Military Nigeria

Academic journal article The Western Journal of Black Studies

Confronting the HIV/AIDS Crisis in Post-Military Nigeria

Article excerpt

Introduction

AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is caused by the presence of the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV in the body. Global epidemiologic studies have so far identified two types of HIV; type 1 is found worldwide while type 2 is restricted to West Africa though it could be transmitted to outsiders with ties to the region. Almost all persons infected with HIV-1 suffer from severe depletion of CD4+ lymphocyte, a component of the immune system that fights off infections. An infected person invariably becomes highly susceptible to various opportunistic organisms that would not normally cause serious disease to uninfected individuals. AIDS opportunistic infections (AIDS-OIs) or diseases caused by such organisms include recurrent pneumonia, pulmonary tuberculosis, histoplasmosis, invasive cervical cancer, and cytomegalovirus (CMV), to name a few. Although HIV-1 is more virulent, the median time from infection to development of the disease to full blown AIDS in adults is approximately 10 years; with HIV-2, the median time is about 5 years (Gallo & Montagnier, 1988). In other words, a person infected with HIV may show no symptoms of AIDS for a few years, but can transmit the virus to uninfected persons through sexual contact, blood transfusion and contaminated needles. Infected women can transmit the disease to an unborn fetus and to an infant through breast-feeding. Clinical expression of AIDS-OIs is exacerbated by a broad spectrum of parasitic and viral diseases that occur in epidemic proportions in sub-Saharan Africa.

The primary purpose of this study is to examine the prospects for sustained international intervention against Africa's AIDS crisis. When the AIDS virus was discovered in early 1980s, there were speculations that it originated in Africa. But it was its pandemic nature that raised alarm in the global community; not only did AIDS prove to be a highly virulent disease, but also a trans-boundary health problem because of its infectious nature. Two decades after the HIV virus made the headlines as a major killer, the debate about its origin has lost much significance in view of what has been revealed by the global struggle against AIDS; not only does Sub-Saharan Africa account for a disproportionate number of the world's AIDS victims, the region lags behind the rest of the global community in terms of its ability to combat the epidemic. The authors argue that the African situation reflects the existing global inequalities in terms of the technological and financial resources necessary to combat AIDS. However, as has been demonstrated by the experiences of the industrial nations of Europe and North America, African countries will need more than those critical medical resources to reverse the present AIDS/HIV trends in the region. Toward that end, the authors conclude with suggestions for more aggressive inward looking approaches to combating the epidemic.

Transmission and Spread of AIDS in Africa

In a recent study entitled Population and Reproductive Health in Sub-Saharan Africa, Thomas Goliber stated that while the HIV/AIDS epidemic is serious in many world regions, it is especially severe in Africa which accounts for a disproportionate number of the world's HIV infections and AIDS deaths (Goliber, 1997). The extent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa is difficult to gauge because many cases are not reported. National estimates of HIV/AIDS prevalence reflect data from sentinel surveillance systems. These are health facilities designated to conduct tests on anonymous blood samples from sexually transmitted disease (STD) clients and from pregnant women who seek antenatal care (ANC). Since these groups are not representative of the entire populations, the statistical data used to analyze the status of the epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa are grossly inadequate. Furthermore, not only do most health facilities lack the diagnostic tools to test for HIV infection, infected persons do not die directly from HIV but rather from the opportunistic infections that invade the body as the immune system breaks down. …

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