HIV/AIDS services boost demography and economy

14May 2016
Francis Semwaza
The Guardian
HIV/AIDS services boost demography and economy

Scientific and technological progress has been a key to the rising living standards. Currently, the battle against HIV and AIDS has partially been successful to the extent that the disease is now less a threat than malaria, cancer and other oncologic diseases.

Red ribbon

Research holds that while malaria affects more than 500 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa annually, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes are the leading causes of death in Europe and North America.

The current situation suggests that the said diseases have been draining the global economy far more than the national and household budgets dedicated fighting HIV/AIDS. Though the irony in this trend is the suggestion that HIV/AIDS is no longer seen as a threat because it is incurable, anyway.

The people, however, globally hold mixed feelings when it comes to AIDS as the most feared disease, by virtue of having no cure and that it is sexually transmitted, that is a way that involves an activity of a natural necessity performed by almost everyone.

But there has been a noted shift in sentiments regarding HIV/AIDS as of late, as its contraction is no longer considered ‘an automatic death sentence’ as a famous online medical journal The Medical Daily puts it.

Thanks to an increasing public awareness, leading to protected sex and the behavioral change, the infection rate has generally decreased compared to the past 20 years. This has been exacerbated by the improvements in HIV/AIDS healthcare services and a hope of life even after contracting the disease.

Research into Tanzania’s southern highland regions where HIV infection rates have been high for decades shows significant improvements whereby both infection and death rates have now been declining. It is a signal that the country’s grain basket and definitely many unsung economic hubs could get back to their feet after nearly three decades of HIV-triggered demographic disaster.

The national efforts in averting the HIV/AIDS pandemic have yielded positive results as the number of bedridden HIV/AIDS infected persons in the region and countrywide has significantly declined.

An anonymous local researcher who oversaw a newly introduced HIV/AIDS palliative care service says though the number of HIV-infected persons is still high, but development into AIDS has been minimal. Even their care takers no longer call them patients but ‘clients’ since they are as productive as others and that their lifestyle is more disciplined than other community members’.

These developments would not have been possible without both simple and complex scientific breakthroughs in search for cure.

HIV/AIDS palliative care itself which seeks to relieve the pain of the most severe ailments has undergone various changes from its insistence on health balanced diets and enhanced vitamins and proteins for HIV/AIDS infected persons up until the late 1990s to the antiretroviral medications as witnessed to-date.

Furthermore, access to the AIDS relief medication has been diffused enough now that they are widely available even to ordinary citizens in both rural and urban areas, boosting economic production carried out by the poor majorities in the developing countries.

The commitment is not limited to medical provision and other relief services, but extends to the global resolve to fighting counterfeit antiretroviral drugs that have fluxed in the market in the developing world.

The aforementioned fight has resulted in fewer complaints over drug inefficiency and adverse side effects from patients taking the drugs.
In countries like Tanzania where annual per capita government spending on health stands at less than $30 according to World Bank statistics, the fight against HIV/AIDS would not have been easy had politics not involved.

Like the past governments, President John Magufuli’s seems equally committed the pandemic.

His government has vowed to pay healthcare attention to the rural majority by establishing at least one dispensary in every village, regardless of the costs. He argues that the economic ends would justify the means no matter the initial costs.

Tanzania’s increased and rural-centered healthcare coverage would augment the ongoing home-based healthcare service provision which has helped to bring healthcare services to people living with HIV/AIDS as well as on the socially sensitive maternal and child health front.

Given the country’s larger youth population accounting at around 60 per cent, according to the 2012 national census, with 18-35 years age as the most HIV vulnerable group, the diffusion of healthcare services to rural Tanzania translates into making science become developmental and people-centered.

With the decline in new HIV infection rates as well as the improved HIV/AIDS relief services, apparently few deaths, better demographics and improved economy is hopefully around the corner.

*Francis Semwaza is a Dar es Salaam-based Development Communication Specialist. For comments: E-mail: [email protected]; Phone: +255 71 646 6 044.

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