Shocking AIDS Statistics!

BY AWAKE! WRITER IN SOUTH AFRICA

THEMBEKA is a 12-year-old girl who lives in a rural village of southern Africa. Her parents died of AIDS, and she was left to care for her three little sisters aged ten, six, and four. “The girls have no income and rely totally on neighbours kindness . . . a loaf of bread, a few potatoes,” stated a news reporter. A picture of the four orphaned girls was displayed on the front page of a South African newspaper that reported on the 13th International Aids Conference, held during July 2000 in Durban, South Africa.

Millions of AIDS orphans face a situation similar to that of Thembeka and her younger sisters. The conference discussed methods of dealing with the growing AIDS crisis, such as education on the prevention of AIDS through the use of condoms; the use of less expensive AIDS treatment, which is now available; and more funding for the development of AIDS vaccines. The vulnerability of women, especially young girls, was also addressed.

Sadly, many AIDS orphans are sought out by men who believe that having sex with a virgin will cure sexually transmitted diseases. Furthermore, many men will not marry a girl unless she has first produced a child. The use of condoms is therefore seen as a barrier to both marriage and motherhood.

Unfortunately, many girls are ignorant of the risk of AIDS. The South African newspaper Sowetan commented on a report that was released at the conference by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF): “Unicef’s surveys found that 51 percent of girls aged 15 to 19 in South Africa did not know that someone who looks healthy can be infected with HIV and transmit it to them.”

Another factor in the spread of AIDS is the sexual abuse of women. Ranjeni Munusamy, who attended the conference, reported in the Sunday Times of Johannesburg, South Africa: “Violence against women, the most disturbing form of male power, remains a major barrier to HIV prevention and care. Its many forms—rape, incest, wife battering and sexual abuse—mean that sex is often coerced, which is itself a risk factor for HIV infection.”

Statistics released at the conference were frightening, as the accompanying chart shows. Every day an estimated 7,000 young people and 1,000 infants are infected with HIV. In one year, 1999, some 860,000 children in sub-Saharan Africa lost their teachers because of AIDS.

According to a survey published by the Medical Research Council of South Africa, 4.2 million people in South Africa are infected with HIV, representing 1 out of every 10 citizens. The situation in neighboring countries is worse. The Natal Witness reported on an estimate given by the U.S. Census Bureau: “The populations of some Aids-stricken African countries will soon begin to fall as millions die of the disease, and life expectancy by the end of the decade will plunge to around 30.”

The AIDS tragedy is further evidence that mankind is living in the “critical times hard to deal with” that the Bible foretold would occur “in the last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Lovers of God’s Word, the Bible, look forward to a complete and permanent solution to AIDS and all the other problems plaguing mankind. Soon, God’s Kingdom will take over the administration of earth’s affairs. In the new world of righteousness, poverty and oppression will be things of the past. (Psalm 72:12-14; 2 Peter 3:13) Instead, earth’s inhabitants will be restored to perfect health, and none of them will ever say: “I am sick.”—Isaiah 33:24.

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Worldwide there are some 13,000,000 AIDS orphans

 [Chart/Map on page 15]

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NUMBER OF ADULTS (AGED 15 to 49) WITH HIV/AIDS, END OF 1999

North America 890,000

Caribbean 350,000

Latin America 1,200,000

Western Europe 520,000

Eastern and Central Europe 410,000

North Africa and the Middle East 210,000

Sub-Saharan Africa 23,400,000

South and Southeast Asia 5,400,000

East Asia and the Pacific 530,000

Australia and New Zealand 15,000

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Source: UNAIDS

[Graph/Picture on page 15]

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PERCENTAGE OF ADULTS (AGED 15 to 49) WITH HIV/AIDS IN 16 AFRICAN COUNTRIES, END OF 1999

1 Botswana 35.8%

2 Swaziland 25.2

3 Zimbabwe 25.0

4 Lesotho 23.5

5 Zambia 20.0

6 South Africa 20.0

7 Namibia 19.5

8 Malawi 16.0

9 Kenya 14.0

10 C.A.R. 14.0

11 Mozambique 13.2

12 Djibouti 11.7

13 Burundi 11.3

14 Rwanda 11.2

15 Côte d’Ivoire 10.7

16 Ethiopia 10.6

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Source: UNAIDS

[Picture]

Thembeka with her sisters

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Photo: Brett Eloff