Sub-Saharan Africa is home to more than two thirds of the population living with HIV (24.7 million) but only a little over 10% of its population. In 2007, an estimated 1.7 million people in the region became newly infected.
AIDS is a long-term illness and getting treatment in poor countries is costly. It depletes household income. Families often have to cut spending on school fees to pay for medication. More than three quarters of those who should be taking anti-retrovirals in Africa are not receiving them.
AIDS has created an explosion of TB in many countries, with many people affected by both illnesses. A recent study in sub-Saharan Africa also suggests that people with HIV are twice as likely to catch malaria as those without.
The death, sickness, and absenteeism caused by these illnesses affects everyone – farmers, factory workers, teachers, students, and doctors. As a result, economic growth suffers. As demand for public spending on AIDS treatment rises, limited resources are diverted from other important health care needs.
AIDS-related deaths in Africa have orphaned an estimated 12 million children and as many as 1,300 children die every day from the disease. New infections occur mainly among young people and women – the gender inequality women experience means that they are affected the worst.
How AMREF is tackling HIV
AMREF works with local communities, local health councils, and other networks to stop new infections of HIV and minimize the impact on people already infected.
Status awareness is key to prevention and treatment, so we encourage voluntary counseling and testing (VCT) for those who think they might be at risk.
We also educate about how to prevent parent-to-child transmission, and work to reduce the stigma and gender-based discrimination that are often directed at those who are HIV-positive. Besides prevention, AMREF has supported community-based initiatives to improve access to treatment, care, and support for people living with HIV/AIDS and/or infected with TB.
In South Africa, for example, where HIV and drug-resistant TB rates are high, many people prefer to consult traditional healers rather than doctors. In response we have trained more than 100 healers in counseling skills and developed their expertise on HIV/AIDS. The South African Department of Health is now equipping the healers with home-based care kits so they can reach patients at home.
This demonstrates our belief that communities should be central to the organization and delivery of local health services. AMREF is committed by helping community groups and local voluntary organizations build and use the skills and resources they already have to respond to the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Projects and stories
- Luwero orphans and vulnerable children project, Uganda
- Homa Bay orphans and widows project, Kenya
- TB and HIV control and prevention, South Africa
- Angaza HIV testing, Tanzania