Tuesday, December 14, 2010

HIV and AIDS in Swaziland

Poverty in Swaziland is inextricably linked with HIV and AIDS. Estimates of those infected range from 25 to 40% depending on the subset of the population you are talking about. The reasons for the very high prevalence are several. Men typically are polygamous and women have very little say in how they live their lives. Women can be forced to bear children again and again by their relatives or husbands.

Contraceptives are not widely used. The chance of HIV infection is increased by poor health and other infections. Women pass on the disease to their children. Infection can take place in the hospital by reusing syringes for example. People are not well educated about the risks. The newspaper obituaries are full of young faces.

The social consequences of HIV are dire. Tens of thousands of homes are headed by a child. There is only one state orphanage that I know of. The government is unable to organise effective support for those affected.

Someone with HIV can remain relatively healthy for a number of years. Then, with the declining immune system, the body becomes more susceptible to infections it can usually easily defend itself against. Fungal infections such as thrush can invade the throat and mouth making eating very painful. Limbs swell up with oedema, it becomes painful to walk, eyes develop conjunctivitis, tuberculosis, malaise, diarrhoea, caries, chicken pox can be fatal, and the list goes on.

Children then have to drop out of school to become carers to sick parents who can no longer work or feed their families. I am posting some videos here which are relevant.

Overwhelming Odds HIV AIDS Orphans in Swaziland

Thandiwe's story

Myths about HIV and AIDS