Universal Access and its Role in the Fight against HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa.
By Winsome M. Hare The Afro News Port Coquitlam : Sub-Saharan Africa continues to deal with an immoderate amount of strain on its economic resources because of the burden of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). An estimated 22.5 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa including 2.3 million children under the age of 15 who have the disease. Meanwhile, 11 million children have being orphaned from the disease in the region. In Sub-Saharan Africa, women and children are most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS especially through the mother-to-child-transmission. Other modes of transmission such as violence, cultural practices, and sexual practices do influence the rate at which women are exposed to the disease. When compared to men, women are the fastest group of individuals being infected by the disease. If this alarming trend continues, who will be there to provide care and nurture the next generation of Sub-Saharan Africans?
In response to the HIV epidemic, United Nations Member States from the 2005 G8 summit held in Scotland, had proposed universal access as a solution to deal with the global impact of HIV. Universal access once implemented would allow all individuals, especially those living in resource-poor countries, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, who are in need to be connected to services that provide HIV prevention, treatment, and care. The deadline for universal access was 2010 and most Member of States including Canada has not acted upon their pledges. Universal access would aid the region’s efforts to deal with the chronic outcomes of HIV/AIDS and other contagious diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria that have a direct impact on the disease process.
Sub-Saharan Africa has many other political and social issues; poverty, hunger, and stigma relating to HIV/AIDS that have implications on health outcomes. But the HIV/AIDS crisis puts future generation of Sub-Saharan Africans at grave risk. A high morbidity or mortality rate due to prolonged illness has had a detrimental effect on the economic direction of the African region and how it is able to maintain and sustain productivity. Universal access could change the inequality that exists in the distribution of health care. The West has effectively demonstrated that broadly distributing Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) for treating individuals infected with HIV averts the threat of huge losses of human lives. So too could Sub-Saharan Africa experience the benefit of HAART or other life-saving drug therapy for everyone of its citizen who are in need of care.
Canada could assist in preserving the lives of individuals in Sub-Saharan Africa by fulfilling the promise made at the 2005 G8 summit, and honour the pledge to contribute to the financial endeavour that would allow universal access to be a reality. Connecting individuals with life-saving HIV prevention, treatment, and care regardless of one’s ability to pay for the services should be the overriding goal of humanity to prevent unnecessary hardship. Redistribution of health care resources is an equitable and noble achievement. Everyone deserves a chance to a happy and healthy life irrespective of their origin.