What is the cause of AIDS in Africa and who is affected by this disease?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, caused by HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus) is believed to have originated in Africa. It was first detected as early as 1959 in the Congo, and it may have been around as much as 50 years before, probably passed by chimpanzees to humans. At least two other theories about the origins of AIDS exists: One suggests that poliomyelitis vaccine research by Hilary Koprowski in the Belgian Congo during the late 1950s may have accidentally created and/or spread the virus. Research suggests that a related HIV virus--SIV, or simian immunodeficiency virus--that affects various apes and monkeys was transmitted to humans through contact or by eating the animals (also known as bushmeat). It is believed that the HIV virus arrived in North America via Africa and Haiti before reaching the U. S.

Originally known as the "4-H disease," since homosexuals, hemophiliacs, heroin users and Haitians were most often found to be infected, AIDS is now known to affect anyone who may have come into contact with the virus.

HIV is transmitted through direct contact of a mucous membrane or the bloodstream with a bodily fluid containing HIV, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid, preseminal fluid, and breast milk. This transmission can involve anal, vaginal or oral sex, blood transfusion, contaminated hypodermic needles, exchange between mother and baby during pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or other exposure to one of the above bodily fluids. 

As of 2007, AIDS was still most predominant in Africa: More than two-thirds of all the world's AIDS carriers resided in sub-Saharan Africa, and of all deaths caused due to the disease, 

... 76% of those deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. According to UNAIDS 2009 report, worldwide some 60 million people have been infected, with some 25 million deaths, and 14 million orphaned children in southern Africa alone since the epidemic began.

The nations of South Africa, Nigeria and India have the largest number of AIDS carriers. AIDS is so prevalent in Africa because of its probable origins there; because of poor health care, sanitary conditions and a lack of AIDS education; and a greater likelihood of unprotected sex.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

AIDS is a terrible disease that is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluid of an infected individual, such as breast milk, semen, blood or vaginal secretions. As such, it is a disease that is spread most often through the act of sexual intercourse. This means that AIDS is most prevalent amongst cultures or groups of people where sexual promiscuity is particularly rampant. One of the reasons why AIDS is present in Africa to such a large extent is the way that culturally men are expected to engage in various promiscuous relationships, even if they are married. Part of the culture dictates that to be a male in such a society is to have a variety of relationships. This means that diseases such as AIDS spread quickly and easily.

In addition, cultural beliefs about health and disease also help spread this disease. There is a belief that AIDS can be cured if you rape a virgin. As a result, many children have been infected with this disease as adults rape them in the search for a cure for their own condition. Although of course it is important to realise how diseases spread biologically, it is also vital to consider the various societal beliefs and social structures that faciliate the spread of a disease like AIDS.