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Section 2: The impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the global response

This section is designed to inform you about:

- the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic; and
- the current efforts to prevent and control the spread of HIV/AIDS.
What is the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic?

Over 33 million people are infected with HIV today and 95 per cent of them live in developing countries.* In many parts of the world, the epidemic will reduce life expectancy dramatically. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, life expectancy has already declined between 10 and 15 years. Over 16 million adults have died since the beginning of the epidemic. AIDS is now the leading cause of death in Africa. And these deaths are mainly occurring among young adults, normally the most productive members of society on whom the economy of a country depends.

The repercussions of HIV/AIDS on households, businesses, education and the economy are clearly devastating.

 An AIDS victimís family experiences a dramatic decrease in income. In rural Thailand, for example, 15 per cent of AIDS-affected families had to take young children out of school. Due to the death of the productive members of the family, poor households in sub-Saharan Africa are faced with a loss of food reserves and have to cut back on the number of meals.
 The heavy toll of deaths among young and middle-aged adults creates a disproportion in the number of old people and children. Because of the loss of their grown children, elderly people are left to take care of themselves, and often their orphaned grandchildren, too. The phenomenon of AIDS orphans is indeed one of the most serious consequences of the AIDS epidemic. By early 1999, more than 11 million children had lost their mothers or both their parents to AIDS. In some African countries, some households are now headed by children. In the cities, children with no parents try to survive on the streets and are often pushed into prostitution, drug abuse or criminality.

 Another sector feeling the impact of AIDS is education. In C�te díIvoire one schoolteacher dies of AIDS almost every school day. A study in Tanzania estimates that AIDS will kill almost 15,000 teachers by 2010

 In many countries, health costs are increasing massively. In Kenya, by 2005, the cost of treating AIDS is expected to account for more than half of the governmentís health budget.

 Private businesses are also suffering from the epidemic. In Tanzania and Zambia, for example, large companies report that AIDS illness and death cost more than their total profits for the year.

These few examples illustrate the frightening consequences that this epidemic may have on the future development of the world.

What is being done to prevent and control the spread of HIV/AIDS?

At present, there is no cure for AIDS and no vaccine to combat the virus. AIDS is, however, a preventable disease. Public education, which teaches people how to avoid infection, is the most effective method of prevention. Developing a system of tracking the epidemic, and prevention and control programmes and services for those living with HIV/AIDS and for healthy people, as well as improving blood screening, will all help deal with the present situation and plan for the future.

National and international efforts

In most countries, national AIDS control programmes (NACP) have been established to coordinate and support all those who are working in the field. These include governmental services as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), AIDS service organizations (ASOs), blood bank services, private individuals, members of the media, etc. At the international level, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is the leading advocate for global action against HIV/AIDS. UNAIDS coordinates the efforts, experiences and resources of its seven co-sponsoring UN organizations and supports a national commitment to AIDS action at country level.

Red Cross and Red Crescent efforts

Since 1987, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has been actively involved in the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS. It organizes or supports programmes that provide psychosocial support and care for people living with HIV/AIDS and their families, prevent discrimination against them and promote understanding, compassion and solidarity. The International Federation also developed training manuals and other publications to provide young people and adults with basic information and ideas for action (for more details: see Appendix VI, Resource list, p. 158).

The International Federationís Secretariat assists more than 110 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies which have HIV/AIDS prevention and control programmes. A number of National Societies in south-east Asia, west Africa and Europe have formed regional networks to share their experiences and strenghten capacity-building processes. These networks were particularly useful when National Societies were setting up youth peer education programmes to prevent and control HIV/AIDS and other STD. Many National Societies have developed their own training manuals and IEC materials (brochures, posters, videos) adapted to their countryís culture and standards.

Scoutsí efforts

The World Organization of Scout Movements has also been actively involved in HIV/AIDS prevention activities, as well as in other health-care issues affecting young people. Scout organizations around the world have their own unique way of operating and many national scout organizations have been able to integrate these prevention activities into their own programmes, which include sport competitions, hiking, essays, drawings, scouts camps, public lectures, drama and TV spots.