How Anti-HIV/AIDs breakthroughs save babies and economy

16Jul 2016
Francis Semwaza
The Guardian
How Anti-HIV/AIDs breakthroughs save babies and economy

There is no doubt that scientific discoveries have helped in finding cure and treatment for diseases as well as solving other problems facing mankind.

Although no cure for HIV/AIDS has been found yet, the available treatment options and palliative care have helped patients to move from being bedridden to productive members of the society.

But improving the human experiences and the fulfillment of individual desire should come in line with the sense of social-responsibility, implying that the pursuit of personal desires should not cause an economic burden on others.

The developments in prevention of mother to child HIV transmission (PMTCT) in the past two decades deserve a praise for initiating births of healthy children from HIV infected mothers.

Among anti-HIV breakthroughs are in store includes the most notable semen washing, which, although applying it may result in an economic burden rather than producing the anticipated individual or societal relief.

Semen washing implies sperms from the HIV positive father must be artificially drawn, cleaned, purified and inseminated into the woman during ovulation for pregnancy. This kind of artificial insemination prevents the mother from infection, apparently for the child to be safe.

The relatively new stride in the developing world has existed and undergone clinical trials in the developed world for at least a decade now and the results have largely attested to its effectiveness among HIV infected discordant couples. It has been a solution to couples having a desire to have children when one of the parents, usually the father is HIV infected, according to researchers Eke and Oragwu in their Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews study published in 2011.

These developments have reportedly trickled down to some developing countries including Tanzania as of late, thanks to the ongoing diffusion of innovation that enables the global sharing of the little technology for humanitarian reasons, and of course market creation.

Although some socio-cultural and economic reasons can be thought of potentially becoming a barrier toward accessing the sperm cleaning services by most couples given the conception that both artificial withdrawal and insemination of semen from a man into a woman is unnatural and so unacceptable, the fast changing pro-science cultures in most African countries could witness a societal welcome with large numbers of people queuing for the services in the hope of making HIV free children.

As scholar Abiba Longwe-Ngwira reports in her scholarly piece published in 2014, in fulfilling this desire though most people in the developing world seem only to care about making children without foreseeing or planning for the children’s future. This so far has resulted in numerous children exposed to risk due to their living in abject poverty.

Given the consequences that HIV/AIDS has caused as far as the increase in the number of orphans and the magnitude of child poverty since the late 1980s to the present with UNICEF estimating the number in Tanzania at over 1.5 million as of the year 2014, it is prudent to educate the discordant HIV positive couples of the choices they are about to make and the consequences that are likely to happen to the household and relatives both as individuals and a collective at the micro level, as well as to the society and the nation at the macro level.

The authorities through healthcare service providers might also want to come up with a multi-dimensional approach involving well knowledgeable and respected members of the society to assess the social and economic viability of such sperm cleaning services in the clients’ desire to make children.

Although assessing the wealth of the HIV positive discordant couples for their desire to make children could be argued as discrimination and thus violation of human rights, yet there are many other such programmes being implemented worldwide including installing quarantines during times of the eruption of communicable diseases such as cholera in order to protect others from harm or provision of services and exemptions to selective social groups.

Although the favour in fee and other exemptions on aforementioned patient categories mainly benefit individual persons, yet it provides social protection of some kind for reducing from relatives the burden of care that they would have to bear both socially and economically.

Therefore, the same grounds of relieving the society can be used to justify the practice of economic assessment should HIV/AIDS patients express the desire to have children. It is better not to make the child and the society suffer in the absence of the desiring parent than to recklessly honour the request for HIV patients to get their sperms cleaned and make children.

The stakeholders therefore might want to consider the economic burden in the long run that the accessibility of the sperm cleaning services may cause especially in producing more orphans and children living under difficult social and economic situations in an already strained society where the number of children at risk has been increasing from the early 1990s to the present.

Given the fact that HIV/AIDS is currently responsible for the increase in the number of orphans in the country and in other African countries, more care needs to be exercised with regards to privileges afforded onto individuals with HIV than recklessly honouring all requests from them to have children through advanced science.

The people need to be imparted with economic thinking in fulfilling their desire to have children while the father, culturally the breadwinner in this regard, is living under uncertain conditions for his being infected with HIV.

Moreover, insisting on parental love over their children would also be a useful tactic in that if the discordant couples are reminded that there will be no parental love that all parents would want to show to their children given the father’s inability to provide for the family due to death or serious illness.

Even if the mother is an industrious enough to stand alone and ensure the welfare of the children she is survived with in case her husband dies, there is no guarantee of sustainability of whatever investments the deceased father may have left behind after death as there are numerous complications in the administration of the estates of deceased persons with women’s rights perpetually being relegated.

Under intense frustration, the sustainability of the deceased’s ideas as regards business and entrepreneurship may prove difficult to pass down to the survivors.

The totality of the situation suggests a larger margin of probability that the economic situation of the HIV/AIDS deceased or critically ill father would worsen and thus subject his family to the risk making them struggle to make the ends meet.

The insistence on economic planning amid the desire for making children while HIV positive may not only be viewed in economic terms per se but can also be seen as a reflection of responsible citizenry for avoiding trouble to the self, the children to be born and the society that would bear the burden of caring for the orphans and other children living under difficult circumstances.

*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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