Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus which that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a disease that causes the progressive failure of the immune system which allows opportunistic infections and cancers to attack the body. Infection with HIV happens by transfer of blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or breast milk. HIV is present in these bodily fluids, as both free virus particles and virus within infected immune cells. Unsafe sex, contaminated needles, breast milk, and transmission from an infected mother to her baby at birth (perinatal transmission) are the four main ways of transmission.
What causes this disease in Africa?
HIV is spread primarily by:
- Not using a condom when having sex with a person who has HIV. All unprotected sex with someone who has HIV contains some risk. However:
- Unprotected anal sex is riskier than unprotected vaginal sex.
- Having multiple sex partners or the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can increase the risk of infection during sex. Unprotected oral sex can also be a risk for HIV transmission, but it is a much lower risk than anal or vaginal sex.
- Sharing needles, syringes, rinse water, or other medical equipment used for injections.
- Being born to an infected mother—HIV can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breast-feeding.
In Africa, HIV is most commonly spread through sexual encounters outside of a marriage relationship. Given the cultural bias towards extra-marital affairs and polygamous marriages the HIV transfer rate can spread very rapidly. The high birth rate coupled with inadequate prenatal treatment leads to many babies being born with HIV in their bloodstream.
What can be done?
Most organizations which focus on education teach some sort of curriculum based on the ABC’s of sexual health. A is for Abstinence. Abstinence is simply not having sex. If you are going to have sex you should do plan B. B is for Be Faithful. If you want to have sex, chose one partner, get married, and do not go outside of marriage. Most USAID funded organizations add a plan C. If you cannot abide by plan A or plan B, they say try plan C. C is for Condoms Always. Every time you have sex use a condom. Plan A provides 100% protection from HIV. Plan B is 100% sure as well if both partners have been tested negative before they begin having sex, but with the rates of unfaithfulness it is closer to 70-80% effective. Plan C is of using condoms is around 80% effective if used with every sexual act. Unfortunately people who chose plan C often fail to use the condoms 100% of the time and thus this is risky behavior.
If someone does not want to contract HIV/AIDS the only REAL solutions are plans A and B. It is a matter of choice, not of chance.