Magazine article New African

How UNDP Sees AIDS in Africa: "Half of All 15-Year Olds Alive Today [in Africa] Will Eventually Die of the Disease, Even If New Infection Rates Drop in the Next Few Years!". (AIDS/Africa)

Magazine article New African

How UNDP Sees AIDS in Africa: "Half of All 15-Year Olds Alive Today [in Africa] Will Eventually Die of the Disease, Even If New Infection Rates Drop in the Next Few Years!". (AIDS/Africa)

Article excerpt

June marked the 20th anniversary of the first clinical diagnosis of Aids, which at the dawn of the 21st century had emerged not only as the most devastating epidemic the world has ever known, but also as the greatest development challenge to ever confront the world.

As it is widely appreciated by now, the manner in which the disease kills its victims is symptomatic of its stealth nature and the broader adverse impact it makes on all the sections of societies and economies.

The prospective devastating impact of the epidemic in Africa is further underscored by the fact that in the most affected countries, half of all 15-year olds alive today will eventually die of the disease, even if new infection rates drop in the next few years!

If the infection rates continue to remain high, more than two-thirds of these young people will die of Aids. Thus Aids does not only constitute a serious constraint to growth and stability of most African economies and societies, but it has actually begun to destroy the hard-won development gains of countries like Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

HIV/Aids has, therefore, become the leading cause of death in the African continent, overcoming natural and man-made disasters. It is, however, only recently that the international community has started coming to grips with the broader development dimensions of the epidemic.

Classical economic theory, which sees improved health as almost an automatic by-product of the process of wealth creation, would not be much of help in this regard. It is for this reason that UNDP has advocated for a more holistic approach to analysing the full development dimensions of HIV/Aids as well as for formulating strategies for responding effectively to it, drawing on the human development analytical framework.

The costs of HIV/Aids cannot only be measured in financial but also in psychological terms. By undermining social networks and traditional support systems as well as erode self-esteem among the victims and their family members, the epidemic has also impacted adversely on Africa's widely appreciated social capital.

HIV/Aids has also increased tremendously vulnerabilities in most African societies, thereby reinforcing long-standing inequalities. This stems mainly from the rapid increase in the number of female-headed households and orphans owing to premature death of spouses. All this creates a vicious cycle with poverty.

In attempting to capture the loss of aggregate output arising from the above effects of the HIV/Aids epidemic, many analysts estimate reductions in the rate of growth of Africa's per capita income by between 0.7% and 1.0%.

Given that currently, it is estimated that the real growth rates of most African countries is below half of what is required to meet the Millennium target of poverty reduction by 2015, this is clearly another cruel irony for the continent. Sadly, the heavy toll of HIV/Aids epidemic in countries like Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa is actually reversing their hard-won achievements in human development.

As it is widely known, amidst all there has been a convergence of many favourable developments at both the national and international levels. The experience of a country like Uganda demonstrates that when the culture of silence is broken combined with strong leadership and comprehensive plans to combat HIV/Aids, the spiralling new infection rates can be reversed. …

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