The disease called “AIDS” was first recognized in the United States in 1981 as the Centers for Disease Control tried to make headway in this condition that seemed to target gay men in New York City. It soon became evident, however, that this disease was not limited to men or to sexual contact. Carried in the blood and body fluids the HIV virus was eventually isolated. Over the next decade treatment evolved from a single drug to a cocktail of medications needed to control the condition. The primary effect of this infection is that immunity from certain lymphocytes in the body is markedly reduced. This has a wide-ranging effect of allowing life-threatening infections and cancers to rage in infected individuals.
Today there are an estimate 33 million infected persons worldwide and over a million in the U.S. alone. Treatment, however, no longer requires a handful of pills and capsules. The medications are much more effective and the disease is managed more like a chronic illness for those who can receive treatment. While this is true in nations like the United States it is not the norm in much of the world, particularly Africa.
AIDs in Africa is still a long way from being controlled. Today there are, yet, many barriers to treating this horrible disease in many nations throughout the world. Sexual practices, political unrest, and a general lack of resources contribute to the lack of progress in dealing with HIV. The lack of basic understanding of hygiene can lead to inadvertent infection in healthcare settings and the lack of testing processes can cause devastating transmission of this disease through transfusions and other injections. Access to the more effective drugs is limited so older, less effective regimens are utilized. Likewise, it is often believed that taking a single dose of a medication may lessen the risk of the disease. Add to this the temptation to profit from reselling medications and effective management of HIV becomes elusive.
It seems likely that until a vaccine can be developed to prevent HIV infection (a long way off), this disease will continue to rage in less developed nations, especially in Africa. Because there is now effective treatment that slows the progression of AIDS, we don’t read as much about it or hear about the devastating effect is has on peoples’ lives. Nevertheless, the name still brings fear to most people when they are asked. In Africa the disease of AIDS is so commonplace that nearly everyone is touched by its horror at some time. It is the new plague that must be braved by missionaries who go into the parts of the world where there are no safety nets and one more barrier to reaching those who need help and who need God.
Research has done much to bring this disease to its knees, but treatment is still too expensive for the huge populations affected outside of the developed world. Let’s direct our efforts to supporting ongoing trials and in getting the newest treatments to places dying from AIDS.
Here are some sites where you can find information or give generously