A Social Problem in Your Neighborhood: HIV/AIDS - Description
A social problem is a condition or an issue that negatively affects a person's state of being in a society and that is viewed as undesirable by one member of this society or by a group of people. Social problems affect members of a society directly or indirectly and are viewed as behavior or acts that are contrary to moral values. Examples of social problems include drug abuse, abortion, alcoholism, child labor, domestic violence, and HIV/AIDS.
These actions bring shame not only upon a particular family but upon the whole community. Discovery of AIDS was in the USA in the early 1980s. At that time, a number of gay men started to develop opportunistic infections that were resistant to any form of treatment. This later became the face of HIV/AIDS, which has become a major healthcare concern in the modern society. The Human Immune Deficiency virus (HIV) attacks the human immune system and destroys the body's ability to fight infections. A potentially fatal condition called AIDS develops at the most advanced stages of HIV.
AIDS is a critical factor for development, especially in the less developed countries. It is a public health problem, particularly in areas that are prone to poverty. HIV/AIDS is manifested in terms of stigma and discrimination, which may include negative attitude, abuse, prejudice and maltreatment towards people living with HIV/AIDS. Stigma and discrimination make infected people suffer withdrawal from families and the society. It can also be evident in terms of poor treatment in health care, educational facilities, withdrawal syndromes due to psychological damage and erosion of rights.
HIV/AIDS patients are mostly isolated, avoided and put in highly stigmatized environments. There they are excluded from social and sexual relationships, which may sometimes lead to premature death through suicide or euthanasia.
Statistics of 2011 presented by UNICEF, UNAIDS, and WHO show that around 30.6 million adults and 3.4 million children were infected with HIV/AIDS in the year 2010. It means that two-of-ten individuals are infected with the virus. The disease is prevalent in infants and adults aged between 20-40 years.
The government is partly to blame for the scourge of HIV/AIDS since it covers up and fails to maintain a reliable and transparent reporting system, which disregards the seriousness of the problem. The government also ignores the existence of the epidemic and fails to cater for the needs of people living with the disease. The government does little in developing a realistic appreciation of individuals' vulnerability by making those who suffer from HIV/AIDS appear abnormal and exceptional. On the other hand, people are also to blame since they fail to protect themselves using protection in case of multiple sexual partners and using gloves when dealing with the patients in hospitals. Unfortunately, most young people lack access to sexual health advice, condoms or other forms of contraception and testing services for HIV and other infectious diseases.
It is observed that the most affected people in our neighborhood are the youth who account for the highest percentage. Seventy-six percent of them are young women and girls, although young men are also at high risk. Children are also the victims of the pandemic since they are left orphaned at an early age.
Increased morbidity of people who are in their productive years is among the effects of HIV/AIDS. It reduces the fertility rate and slows the population growth rate and its structure. There will be increased dependency ratio, where orphaned children with special needs will increase, and their extended families will not be able to support them.
There will be an economic implication where the costs of medical care and other costs will increase. Most of these infected people fall within the age bracket of a working population, which eventually slows production and income of the households.
Death of individuals affects the family, community and the whole society. For instance, the death of an income earner in a family will affect the family's access to resources. Children will also receive less care in case their mother dies; they may be left orphaned, homeless. Thus, a number of children living on the streets will increase.
Sexual contact is one of the major causes of HIV/AIDS. The main forms are unprotected vaginal and anal sex with a slim possibility in oral sex. Other forms of transmission are sharing needles and syringes among the drug users, sharing sex toys if one partner is infected with the virus, mother to child transmission during delivery or breastfeeding, blood transfusion, and accidental pricking with an infected needle.
Taking an example of the United States of America, most of the affected are the low-income earners living in poor conditions that have limited access to healthcare and other basic services and have no medical insurance. Men having sex with other men (MSM) and bisexuals are also severely affected by HIV and account for the largest number of HIV infections. On the other hand, heterosexuals and drug users who use injections are also at high risk. HIV infections are not necessarily caused by individual behavior, but by a person's sexual network. This has led to high HIV concentration in black men because they prefer partners of the same race. It's also prevalent Latinos and Latinas, and as well as people living in geographic hotspots such as the United States South and Northeast, Puerto Rico and the U.S Virgin Islands. There has also been a huge problem in urging people to use protection when having penetrative sex as its one of the major ways of spreading the virus. In addition, most young people lack role models to emulate on how to live a low risk and sexually responsible life. All of these factors contribute to the prevalence of this social healthcare problem.
A Social Problem in Your Neighborhood: HIV/AIDS - Efforts to Resolve this Problem
Various efforts have been put in place by the U.S. to resolve the HIV/AIDS, especially in the southern states. The U.S government established Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003. Through it, the government supports a number of activities such as research, assist in the required technology and provide funds to other nations. PEPFAR was a comprehensive effort to combat the pandemic.
Through a partnership of the U.S government and the Department of Health and Human Service, there has been increased prevention, treatment and care programs and extensive research. Increased AIDS education on the causes and ways to prevent oneself from the disease has as well been incorporated in the school curriculum. Making the community understand the suffering caused by their negative attitude towards the patients will be a huge step in making HIV patients viewed as "normal" people and a part of our neighborhood. There should be training and high levels of awareness where the ABC method (Abstinence, Being faithful and using Condoms) should be emphasized. This training should involve peer education and behavior change.
Members of the society should be also encouraged to visit VCT (Voluntary Counseling and Testing) centers, where they are given an option of treatment if found positive and offered the ways to live healthy if negative. Care, support and treatment, should be given to the infected people, where the health nutritionist through the help of the government can provide nutrition and treatment to these people. There should also be programs on ways to manage stress, proper diet and how to avoid opportunistic infections such as TB, hepatitis C, and pneumonia.
The government is putting on combined strategies to reduce HIV infections such as condom use, education and testing which have been found to give more positive results while targeting the high-risk population such as gay men, black and Latino Americans and also the injecting drug users. Previously, efforts were focused on people at risk of acquiring HIV, but recently it has shifted to people living with HIV.
The achieved success in prevention has been variable in the U.S. Of the successful areas has been the reduction of mother-to-child transmission through the routine HIV testing for pregnant women and avoidance if breastfeeding. There has been increased AIDS education for the older generation to reduce HIV infections among people over fifty years old. The government has also increased its investment in research and HIV prevention funding which has been seen to reduce the rate of infection. The Americans are putting emphasis on the social determinants such as age, race, poor living environment and access to medical services other than just concentrating on behavior change. The government has also embarked on prevention by introducing an antiretroviral drug branded "Truvada" which is prescribed to the high-risk group.
Efforts to resolve the HIV/AIDS problem has faced challenges. The establishment of PEPFAR is seen as a short-term measure. Moreover, a majority of the people do not know their status because they do not have access to necessary health facilities that can make HIV testing a day to day part of their health services.
Financing of HIV care is funded through Ryan White Program, Medicaid and other federal funding. Among the federally funded programs is the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), which provides funds for the states. Huge funds are required to provide necessary resources in medical care, nutrition, drugs and trained personnel in the medical fields to help low-income AIDS patients, with the majority being African Americans. Although AIDS education has been emphasized, people are still reluctant to use protection. Discrimination at the society level is still evident, and people are afraid to speak out and declare their HIV status. Therefore, the network of infected people continues to increase.
The government needs funds to be actively involved in AIDS education to the southern states where students don't learn about it in school. Sex education is important to educate people about HIV transmission from an early age.
Resources are needed to set up testing centers to encourage testing as early as possible after exposure to HIV. The resources are also needed to provide comprehensive quality services for treatment of HIV infection and other infections related to HIV as well as, carry out preventive research. There is also a need to provide free syringes to the drug addicts to prevent them from sharing the same needles. Although this is seen as encouraging the use of drugs, it prevents the spread of HIV.
There have been inequalities in the southern part of the U.S in terms of Ryan White Funding and ADAP funding. Medicaid provides the largest proportion of funding for the U.S which has been seen to provide a lower proportion of funding for individuals with HIV in the southern region compared to the Midwest and West. The high level of poverty in the south and other targeted states plus the concentration of the waiting list for the ADAP program in these states shows that greater resources are needed in these areas.
In conclusion, it is evident that the reality of AIDS has come to our neighborhood and should not be ignored. It affects everyone by bringing a mixture of fear, embarrassment, compassion, hostility and at times disgust. We cannot, therefore, keep ourselves invisible from HIV/AIDS. A holistic approach needs to be adopted to address HIV in the South and other targeted states that focus on specific situations and needs of the people in these regions. There should be improved detection and treatment for HIV disease as it has serious consequences for the individuals involved and the affected community. Untreated HIV v is more transmissible than HIV that is at undetectable levels. In my own view, people should be taught to be morally upright to prevent the instances of irresponsible sex among the youth, infidelity among the married couple and other awkward sexual relationships.
People should be made to understand that there is no cure or vaccine for AIDS. The society needs to focus on the ability that exists for those who are infected with HIV by helping them not to get stressed. Stress and depressions can lead to progression of HIV to AIDS. Better still, healthy living should be encouraged to live a long and full life. I can help fight discrimination by educating the members of my neighborhood that HIV patients need love and support from us. With this, I believe, I can help fight the HIV problem.