Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a killer disease caused by the human immune deficiency virus (HIV) which affects one’s immune system making them susceptible to opportunistic diseases that they succumb to. A person is said to be suffering from AIDS when the HIV has compromised their immune system triggering chronic fevers, constant diarrhea, significant unexplained weight losses, night sweats as well as swollen glands and thrush. (Weiss G and Lonnquist L, 2008). HIV is thought to have started spreading as early as the late 70’s though official statistics have it that it was first recognized in 1981 in the US.
The origin of the virus remain unclear with some arguing that it originated from the outer space, was artificially created, escaped from a laboratory or it is a natural virus that initially affected apelike creatures before it found its way to humans. (Johnson P, 2007). HIV spread widely to other regions and today it is deemed as a world pandemic with over 40 million people infected globally. Sadly, about 4 to 5 million people are infected with the virus annually while over 25 million people have so far succumbed to it.
To date there is no known cure for HIV AIDS though scientific development have led to the usage of antiretroviral which work to prolong the life span of those infected. A unique factor about HIV is the fact that one can stay for as long as a decade without exhibiting any symptom that they are sick, a period in which they can infect others. As a matter of fact some research findings have it that the spread of HIV is more intense in the latent period. (Irwin A, Millen J and Fallows D, 2003). It is difficult to give the exact figures of those infected as many people have not been tested but one approach used by epidemiologists is estimation.
Specific groups such as pregnant women, prisoners, people joining the military service and patients in the varied states are tested and CDC uses these estimates to approximate the number of people infected with the virus while putting into account people’s behavioral changes. (Weiss G and Lonnquist L, 2008). Although no biological links have been found to explain why some races are more susceptible to acquiring the virus in the US, blacks and the Hispanics are more affected than the whites. Gay people or homosexuals as well as those abusing drugs through injection are also at a higher risk of acquiring the virus.
A research established that roughly, half the infected persons were gay men while over 20% were drug abusers who used infected needles. People engaging in unsafe sexual intercourse with many partners are also at a higher risk of contracting the virus. (Weiss G and Lonnquist L, 2008). A unique factor about HIV AIDS is the fact that unlike other fatal diseases which are airborne and hence contagious it cannot be transmitted through a handshake or sneezing. Again, though some traces of the virus can be found on saliva, tears and sweat it cannot be transferred through these modes.
It can also not be passed on through insect bites as the virus only survives in humans. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2008). HIV is passed on through contact with contaminated body fluids through anal, oral or coital sex, interjectory drug abuse, mother to child during birth as well as through breastfeeding. Precautionary measures during and after birth have been adopted to prevent the mother to child transmission and much progress have been made. This makes the containment of the HIV manageable as people’s behaviors play a vital role in curbing its spread. Weiss G and Lonnquist L, 2008).
Susan, Kristin and Kathryn in ‘HIV infection and Aids in the Deep south’ noted that there are many discrepancies in the manner at which HIV AIDS trends are registered in the US. The southern region of the US which comprises of 16 states namely; Virginia, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, Washington, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Oklahoma registers higher rates when compared to other states. (Reif S, Geonnotti, Whetten K. 2006).
Variances are also evident among the varying states with some recording higher rates than others. Some states record similar trends in as far as HIV and AIDS infections are concerned for instance; North and South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana register similar trends. The term ‘Deep South’ was coined to describe those states that had a history in agriculture especially in cotton as well as slave trade. These states have disproportionately been affected by the HIVAIDS pandemic in the USA. 2000-2003 statistics have it that in this region HIVAIDS infection raised by up to 35. % while the rate in other states in the south were as low as 4% and the national rate with an exception of the southern states stood at 5. 2%. (Reif S, Geonnotti S, Whetten K, 2006). The prevailing conditions in the South can be blamed on various factors such as poor health conditions as can be bore witness by the poor health indicators in the region. Three states in this region recorded the highest death rates, highest rates for diabetes, stroke, sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and Chlamydia as well as infant mortality rates.
The Deep South region which has the highest prevalence rate for HIV infections is largely predominated by African Americans. (Reif S, Geonnotti S, Whetten K. 2006). Other characteristics of the Deep South region include high rates of illiteracy as many do not graduate from colleges. Most people in the Deep South region also have no health insurance which can be explained by the higher rates of poor health indicators. The levels of poverty and unemployment are higher in the Deep South region when compared with the other regions in the US.
Higher rates of unemployment mean that the rates of poverty are higher and this is true both at an individual as well as at the family level. Higher rates of HIV infections in the Deep South region were recorded among women as well as African Americans. (Reif S, Geonnotti S, Whetten K. 2006). The higher rates of sexual transmitted diseases in the Deep South are thought to have a relationship or link with the high rates of HIV infections in the region. This is attributed to the fact that medical experts argue that sexually transmitted diseases have a role to play in as far as the facilitating of the virus spread is concerned.
Lack of accessibility to quality health care services among these people is also thought to play a significant role in spreading the virus. (Ellerbrock V et al, 2004). Sociological theories argue that man is a social being and does not exist in a vacuum. One’s surrounding predisposes a person to behaving in a certain manner. Values, norms and expectations of the society are passed on from one generation to the next through the various socializing agents such as schools, families, peers and mass media as well as through religion. (Andersen M and Taylor H, 2001).
People’s surroundings also play a vital role in determining their behaviors. In poverty stricken areas the effectiveness of schools in passing on values will be compromised triggering bad behavior such as drug abuse and carefree lifestyles. Poverty also leads to ‘innovation’ where people adopt illegal means to attaining the societal values. Prostitution for instance is a clear illustration of a failing society which states is material success objective commonly know as the ‘American Dream’ but fails to offer clear cut means to attaining it especially to the disadvantaged groups. Andersen M and Taylor H, 2001).
Poverty triggers higher rates of HIV infection as it denies the poor a chance to access vital health information that would ensure that certain diseases were prevented. Public health education is in most cases done in the health care facilitates and those who cannot access them are cut off. Some may also not understand the mode of communication used due to illiteracy triggered by poverty. Poverty is also associated with desperation and hopelessness which sees people engage in drug and other substance abuse which predisposes them to contracting the virus.
People who abuse drugs risk contracting HIV especially when contaminated needles are used. Another risk that makes drugs increase the tendency of one contracting the virus is the fact that they compromise one’s reasoning ability and consequently may see them engage in risky behaviors such as unsafe sexual intercourse with many partners whose status is unknown. (Ellerbrock V et al, 2004). In terms of racial background one can argue that the region is disadvantaged in the sense that it is comprised of more African Americans, a race known for lack of health insurance as well as higher poverty rates.
Many African Americans are poor and this places them at a higher risk in as far as contracting HIV is concerned. Discrimination especially in incarceration of African Americans in the Deep South precipitates concurrent sexual practices which in turn paves way for HIV AIDS. (Adimora A and Schoenbach J, 2002). Young African American women as well as others from the disadvantaged communities are at a higher risk of contracting the virus. Poverty could drive them into prostitution where they may not have the chance to negotiate for safer sex.
In most cases women have been identified as the weaker sex and consequently they have no say in the male dominated society. Biologically women are at a higher chance of contracting HIV than men as the vagina is more receptive to substances than the male penis. Poverty leads to lack of proper education which is essential if educational programs on health are to be successful Illiterate people also tend to be ignorant and this predisposes them to HIV. Provision of preventive programs is impossible in the poverty stricken regions thus precipitating the high rates of HIV AIDS in the Deep South region.
People from the Deep South who have been infected with the virus will develop AIDS quickly due to the inaccessibility of health care services. (Ellerbrock V et al, 2004). HIV AIDS prevalence also varies with geographical regions in terms rural versus urban regions with the former recording higher rates than the later. People in the rural areas encounter more difficulties when trying to access quality health care services as opposed to those in the urban areas.
This hinders them accessibility to preventive programs such as the educative or informative programs that would have seen them reduce their chances or acquiring the HIV virus. The rural areas record lower chances of attaining or rather accessing health care professionals and they also have problems accessing treatment making their conditions worse. People in the rural areas are consequently forced to travel to the urban areas to seek medical services and some are too poor that the transportation costs are a burden to them. (Adimora A et al, 2004).
The Deep South region is also known to have higher rates of stigmatization with the HIV AIDS, a factor that sees the rates of HIV escalate. The belief that people belong to a specified social status which cannot be changed also plays a role in cementing the spread of HIV, given the fact that poverty has a strong association with HIV prevalence rates. Some people in the Deep South have a strong distrust with their health care systems a factor that also contributes to higher prevalence rates of HIV AIDS as they will not respect the advices offered by their health care providers. Reif S, Geonnotti S, Whetten K, 2006). HIV AIDS in the South has remained higher than in the other states in the US due to many factors. Since the disease is not airborne but is spread through various intimate body contacts, mother to child or through the use of contaminated needles it can be effectively managed if people adopted positive behaviors. Reducing the number of sex partners that one has, war on drugs, and proper accessibility to health care facilities would be of significance in as far as the fight against HIV AIDS is concerned.
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