An Overview of HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa

1 03 2013

UNAIDS has expressed the belief that the incidence rate (new infections) peaked in the late 1990s and has stabilised in many countries in the world. This phenomenon can be attributed to prevention programmes and changes in behaviour.

The proportion of people of people living with HIV has also levelled off. However the numbers of people living with HIV have continues to rise, due to population growth and the life-prolonging effects of antiretroviral therapy.

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the worst affected region in the world.earth_planet

Declines in the national HIV prevalence in some sub-Saharan African countries are not strong enough or widespread enough to diminish the epidemic’s overall impact on this region.

Women in sub-Saharan Africa bear a disproportionate part of the AIDS burden. Not only are they more likely than men to be infected with HIV, but also in most countries they are also more likely to be the ones caring for people living with HIV.

In South Africa the very high incidence of rape is fuelling the transmission of the virus. We need stronger action and reaction from our law inforcement and the citizens to curb this crime.

Many men are moving to the cities in search of work and leaving their wives and children behind in rural areas. This leads to the use of prostitutes or involvement of girl friends in the cities. Until this situation is changed or the pattern of behaviour is changed, battle with HIV/AIDS will continue.

South Africa also has the added scourge that drug addicts are using antiretroviral drugs to add to their drug cocktails for heightened effect. They obtain the antiretroviral drugs mainly by stealing them from HIV patients. The resultant effect of this crime leads to the inadequate administration of the medication and possible drug resistance.4retroviral

Until the law enforcement agencies get to grips with this crime the situation can only deteriorate.

Recent statistics in South Africa show a decline in numbers, but the overall incidence of HIV is still unacceptably high.

Even if you reside in an area which has stabilized you can never let your guard down.

HIV is still with us. We have not found a cure so the HI virus lives on.

©Teresa Denton


Preventing HIV

19 01 2013

Everyone is at risk of getting HIV. Preventing exposure for oneself and others is the only way to ensure a safe future.


To avoid sex is the safest way to prevent infection. To delay sexual relationships during the teen years will also minimise the dangers of multiple, casual sexual encounters.

Faithful Relationship

In a loving relationship both partners must be tested. istock_fingerprick

If both are negative and have not been involved in any risky behaviour for at least three months prior to the test, one can be considered safe. If there is any doubt it will be advisable to use condoms until two consecutive tests are negative.

Casual Sexual Encounters

Chances of exposure to HIV is greater if one is exposed to multiple partners. Condoms must always be used for casual  sex.              Since you cannot see that someone is positive it is always wise to protect yourself in all sexual encounters.

Sexually Transmitted Infections

As soon as one becomes aware of an infection, seek medical advice immediately and get it treated. Both partners must be treated. Any lesion makes the transmission of HIV much easier.

Know Your HIV Status

Make a point of getting yourself tested and also encouraging any sexual partner to get tested. A pregnant lady needs to know her status so that the necessary precautions can be taken to protect her unborn baby if she is positive.

Never Share Needles

A person who chooses to inject drugs can prevent HIV by using clean needles and syringes each time a drug is injected.

Never Share Toothbrushes or Razor Blades.

A chance of exposure is possible through any broken skin or sores.

Handling of Blood or Bodily Fluids

Health professionals care givers and emergency personal etc. must take every precaution to protect themselves if they are at risk of being exposed. Retest yourselves if you are in any doubt. In some risky exposusure situations it may be advisable to double glove. Needle stick exposure needs immediate treatment.

Fights or Violent Encounters.

If you are involved in any fight where skin has been broken and you have been exposed to the blood or bodily fluids of an unknown assailant/ or an assailant whose status is not known to you, get medical assistance as soon as possible. I include rape in this group. Tests and prophylactic antiretroviral medication are usually given at trauma centres.

HIV is not curable but it is preventable!

©Teresa Denton

The 2013 Resolution

11 01 2013

Too often we look around, and wonder what others are doing to solve problems.

Let 2013 be the year in which I look at myself and evaluate what I have done

about the HIV/AIDS challenge.

  • Have I shared my knowledge with anyone?
  • Have I tested my HIV status?
  • Have I encouraged anyone to have him or herself tested?
  • Have I used my contacts to spread the positive message to minimize the stigma?
  • Have I lent a helping hand to a person living with the HI virus?
  • What have I done up to now and how can I contribute in 2013?

Let us all make a difference in 2013!

©Teresa Denton

The Silent Epidemic & HIV

19 11 2012

Sexually transmitted infections have been referred to as the Silent Epidemic.

Alta van Dyk tells us in HIV/AIDS Care & Counselling that sexually transmitted infections are a major problem in southern Africa. It is estimated that annually more than a million people seek treatment at municipal clinics and private practices. It is also believed that many more seek help from traditional healers.

It is small wonder that HIV has formed a deadly alliance with STIs!

People who have sexually transmitted infections are particularly vulnerable to HIV for the following reasons:

  1. A  response of the body to any inflammation is to concentrate lymphocytes into the area to fight the infection. CD4 cells are part of this migration and the HIV attaches itself to the CD4 cells to enter the blood stream and multiply
  2. Patients with genital ulcers are particularly susceptible to HIV cross infection as the ulcers create openings in the mucous membrane through which the HI virus easily moves
  3. Genital  discharges and secretions are high in HIV concentration making the HIV-positive person extremely infectious.
  4. HIV infections delay the healing and the cure of the STIs therefore making them more severe and difficult to treat.

Health care professionals are alerted to early diagnosis and treatment of STIs and to refer them for HIV testing after pre-test counselling

Researchers in Africa believe that the control of sexually transmitted infections may go a long way in combating HIV.

Education to encourage condom usage, avoidance of multiple intimate partners and timely treatment of sexually transmtted infections can be your and my contribution to this goal.

©Teresa Denton

Slow HIV Progression with Food

7 11 2012

Maintaining a healthy, nutritious diet is important for all people, but particularly for people living with HIV.

A poor diet impairs the functioning of the immune system, and hastens the progress of HIV infection to AIDS.

Nutrition is not a substitute for treatment – eventually all HIV infected persons will need antiretroviral medicines to support their immune system.

The HIV positive person will need to eat well to maintain his/her weight. In all the HIV care centres, expert advice is available to guide patients about the best way to get adequate nutrition.

Opportunistic infections such as thrush of the throat will limit food intake and the nutritionist will help to manage the challenge. Many persons living with HIV suffer from digestive problems such as severe diarrhoea & nausea. The health professional can provide advice on containing these conditions and advise on the foods which will cause the least irritation.

Vitamins, such as multivitamins, vitamin B complex, vitamin B12, zinc and selenium can potentially support the immune system. It is advisable to consult with the health professional to find out about the recommended dosage. Too little can be ineffective and too much could be dangerous.

Immune boosters may or may not strengthen the immune system. Many overpriced products are marketed and the effectiveness has not been scientifically verified. Consumers must be aware and get expert advice.

A nutritionist will supply information about:

  • Healthy eating and lifestyle
  • Food preparation
  • Nutritional supplements

For people who cannot afford their nutritional needs, food parcels are supplied at Government HIV service points. Welfare societies, churches and NGOs also distribute food parcels.

Eating healthy, nutritious food and a well balanced diet can benefit not only those living with HIV, but all of us.

©Teresa Denton

A Virus comes to Stay, The HIV Time Line

19 10 2012

The first recognised cases of AIDS were identified in 1981 when a very rare form of pneumonia (Pneumonia carinii ), thrush and Kaposi’s sarcoma (a rare skin cancer) suddenly made an appearance simultaneously in several patients admitted to hospitals in the USA.

Adler tells us in Development of the epidemic (1988) that these patients were young homosexual men with damaged immune systems.

In 1983 a virus was identified and known as LAV (lymphadenopathy-associated virus).

In May 1986 the virus was renamed as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)

Soon afterwards a new disease made an appearance among heterosexual people in Central Africa. This disease destroyed the immune systems, caused severe diarrhoea and gross weight loss. In Africa it was called ‘slim disease’.

Alta van Dyk describes (HIV/AIDS Care & Counselling) in detail the claims and protracted court case between Dr Luc Montagnier of the Louis Pasteur Institute and Dr Robert Gallo of the USA. Both claimed the discovery of the virus. After intervention of the presidents of France and the USA a compromise was reached and both scientists were officially recognised as the co- discoverers of the virus according to Conner & Kingman (The Search for the Virus).

Two viruses are associated with AIDS; HIV-1 and HIV-2.

HIV-1 was isolated in Central, East & southern Africa, North and Southern America, Europe and the rest of the world.  HIV-2 was discovered in West Africa in 1986. Due to global travel these viruses will cross borders.

In 1987 the first antiretroviral drug AZT (zidovudine) was approved for use.

In 1994 ART (antiretroviral therapy) was used for the first time to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

It was in 1995 that triple drug therapy was introduced. It took another decade before some countries in southern Africa started using ART.

At this stage all the world’s governments recognise the need for ART as a response to HIV infection. The roll out to infected individuals is impeded by the prohibitive cost  of the drugs.

ART is used for:

  • Long-term treatment of persons with established infections
  • Short-term prevention- mother-to-child-transmission; occupational exposure and traumatic exposure after sexual assault or rape.

Active research is now being undertaken to develop ART for the prevention of accidental or casual exposure.

HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence.

We can all play a part in fighting this pandemic, no matter how small. Don’t underestimate your own contribution.

©Teresa Denton

TB and HIV

5 10 2012

Back in the mid 1980’s we thought we had Tuberculosis under control.

We thought we had all the answers; we immunised babies at birth and  campaigned widely to educate our people about TB. We had excellent drugs and we only had to control the drug administration so that we could cure TB in six months!

Sub- Saharan Africa has been plagued with Tuberculosis for a number of centuries and at last we felt we could see the light.

Then the Human Immunodeficiency Virus came to our shores!

A very grateful Mycobacterium Tuberculosis grabbed at the opportunity to form a very successful partnership with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

Simply put, HIV attacks the human immune system and weakens it then the TB bacillus attacks the human with the diminished resistance.

The partnership is so successful that they even share some signs and symptoms.


General weakness and tiredness

Loss of appetite

Loss of weight

Chronic cough (Pulmonary TB)


General weakness and tiredness

Loss of appetite

Loss of weight

Chronic cough (PCP)


TB is diagnosed by specific skin tests; Sputum cultures; X rays and the clinical picture

HIV is diagnosed by specific skin tests; blood tests for CD4 and viral load counts and the clinical picture.

Due to the stigma of HIV, many people with TB signs and symptoms are disappearing underground to avoid diagnosis and the associated shame.

It does not mean that everyone with TB is HIV positive or that all those who are HIV positive will have TB, but if you live in a country where TB is endemic, both conditions should be considered and eliminated.

In some countries these ‘twins’ are inseparable. Sub Saharan Africa is particularly susceptable to both

How do we fight this situation?

By extensive health education we must constantly try to eliminate the HIV stigma and encourage all our community members to be tested.

Remember Tuberculosis is curable and HIV is careable.

Accept the challenge!

©Teresa Denton

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