World AIDS day is a time to reflect and consider what the most important and promising methods to dealing with this travesty are.
Currently circumcision, microbicides and microfinance are listed as the most promising options in a recent CNN article. Some health experts are saying that the focus on providing access to the life extending antiretroviral drugs has inadvertently led to a decrease in the rate of prevention.
Being that prevention is the only “cure”, experts are looking for ways to increase prevention without overpowering the access of the helpful drugs. In other words, though the drugs are helpful, they are not a cure, and the use and implementation as well as the goal of the implementation of these drugs has had a somewhat discouraging effect.
A vaccine is the only other way to treat AIDS other than prevention and currently there simply isn’t one.
While there are new approaches, strategies, and the research has been ongoing for the past 25 years, there is still no cure. Not only is there not a cure, there is very little hope for a cure. The drugs seem to be the only hope and because of this the infiltration of prevention techniques and awareness has been somewhat overpowered by the cause to make the expensive drugs more accessible to those in impoverished nations.
One strategy currently going on in South Africa has cut a women’s chance of domestic violence by more than half. It is a microfinance project. The project is not just intended to reduce AIDS, it is intended to change the entire environment which will make AIDS less prevalent.
Also, the microfinance project has decreased AIDS through the decrease in domestic violence. It is often abusive relationships that are linked with HIV and abusive men are more likely to have multiple partners or to become violent if asked to use condoms.
By addressing the environment as a whole, the solution is found by increasing education and awareness of AIDS, as well as providing other means for survival.
For example, the study in South Africa provided money for 430 women. They were loaned the money in order to start small businesses. Most of the women sold fruit, vegetables, clothes or offered tailoring services. This way, women were no longer obligated to remain in violent relationships.
HIV continues to grow with 4 million new cases every year. Thailand and Uganda in particular have had quite the surge of AIDS within their borders.
Jennifer Kates, vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, has stated that we need to run faster to get ahead of the virus. The AIDS outbreak is accelerating and advancing at an alarming rate. In order for it to be stopped, prevention and awareness must be raised.
There are also underlying causes of AIDS that are often unspoken of. In many communities, sexually transmitted diseases are ignored or unspoken of for ethical or etiquette reasons. This ‘hush’ mentality or lack of discussion and awareness of AIDS has seemed to perpetuate the problem.
While the microfinance approach worked well in South Africa, this type of approach obviously would have little effect in other areas of the world where AIDS is prevalent. Prostitutes, homosexuals and drug users are at the highest risk.
In Latin America, the greatest percentage of AIDS sufferers is gay men. In Eastern Europe and Russia, drug use has caused the greatest surge of AIDS. Depending on the region, the method and approach of prevention vary due to the cause and method in which the disease is spreading.
Microbicides are another approach that is under study. This is basically a pre-exposure use of antiretrovirals.
There is currently a vaginal gel that is being developed that may help women protect themselves against HIV in countries where men are notoriously reluctant to use condoms.
Trials have been tested in South Africa dealing with circumcision as well. Circumcised men were 60% less likely to become infected. Another common problem with the pandemic is lack of action. While research has been ongoing, it is often slow moving. In order for action to take place, there is a lot that needs to happen, including consensus from a lot of people.
While it is important to be thoroughly researched, there has been talk that the slow movement and unwillingness to take action quickly have both inadvertently caused more deaths.
It is obvious that AIDS is a complicated disease affecting millions in a variety of communities, countries, cultures, languages, social status and age. In order to fight the disease, prevention and awareness are absolutely necessary.