AIDS in Africa

Facts, figures and background information on the epidemic

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AIDS in Africa is one of the biggest humanitarian disasters of our time. South of the Sahara, the epidemic is the leading cause of death. Two-thirds of all HIV-infected people worldwide are Africans. The poverty disease AIDS has devastating social and economic consequences. That's how millions of AIDS orphans without a future grow up. But there is also progress in the fight against HIV / AIDS south of the Sahara.

Halting the spread of HIV / AIDS - this was one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015. Despite considerable successes in the fight against the AIDS epidemic, there can be no question of implementing this goal. AIDS is still one of Africa's biggest obstacles to development and one of the most important societal challenges. The new goal of the United Nations is to eliminate the AIDS epidemic worldwide by 2030.

The mother died of AIDS, now the grandmother takes care of the orphaned granddaughter: The family aid of the SOS Children's Villages in Bangui, Central Africa - Photo: Sylvain Cherkaoui

AIDS in Africa: That's what the numbers say

Around 36.7 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, including 2.1 million children. Around 25.5 million of the infected live in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2016, there were 730,000 AIDS-related deaths in the region. More than two-thirds of new HIV infections worldwide are in sub-Saharan Africa. This is the region most affected by the HIV / AIDS pandemic.

Improved healthcare has significantly reduced mortality in many countries, yet 11.7 million people still do not receive antiretroviral therapy - the drug treatment strategy for HIV patients.


AIDS in Africa: particularly hard-hit countries

Of the 25.5 million people infected in sub-Saharan Africa, 1.85 million are younger than 15 years old. The countries most affected by the HIV epidemic include the African countries of Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Kenya and Zimbabwe. However, most people living with HIV live in South Africa: With more than seven million AIDS patients, including around 320,000 children, the country has one of the highest HIV rates in the world, with a total population of around 56 million. Frightening results came from a study by the South African government in 2012: 28% of all schoolgirls are HIV-positive. Since the infection rate of their male counterparts is only 4%, the government assumes that the girls are infected with older men, the so-called "sugar daddies".

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AIDS orphans in Africa

There are 1.7 million AIDS orphans in South Africa, 1.2 million children in Mozambique and 670,000 children in Malawi - all of them have lost one or both parents to the immunodeficiency syndrome. In total, nearly 14 million AIDS orphans live in sub-Saharan Africa. In some parts of the Southeast African country of Malawi, the treacherous disease has killed every second adult and made orphans children. 

Many of them cared for their parents and at the same time had to look after their younger siblings and their livelihood for the family. If the orphans are not received by relatives after the death of their parents, they are completely on their own. Many of them then end up on the street with no hope for a future.

Here are more facts about children and AIDS.

The mother died of AIDS, now the grandmother takes care of the orphaned granddaughter: The family aid of the SOS Children's Villages in Bangui, Central Africa - Photo: Sylvain Cherkaoui

AIDS in Africa: causes for the high spread of the HIV virus

The reasons for the high level of AIDS spread in sub-Saharan Africa are manifold. The most common causes include:

  • Poverty: About half of the world's people living in extreme poverty live in sub-Saharan Africa. That's almost 390 million people. The scarce money is usually not enough to be protected by condoms from infection, let alone for an HIV test or even an antiretroviral therapy.
  • Inadequate medical care: Although in Africa, more and more people are getting access to AIDS tests and HIV medication. For example, babies can be protected from mother-to-child transmission. But health systems in Africa are still unable to cope with the fight against the AIDS epidemic. It lacks hospitals as well as doctors.
  • Lack of prevention and education: Prevention and education campaigns have been launched far too late in many African countries. Many governments ignored the disease, with the result that it was able to spread unhindered for 20 years. Even today, the knowledge about the HI virus is inadequate in large parts of the population. Enlightenment is made difficult not least by the fact that the majority of people have no access to education.
  • Taboo and stigma: AIDS is a taboo subject in many African countries. HIV-infected people are stigmatized and expelled from society. Many keep their illness secret - even before their sexual partners. Result: They knowingly infect others.
  • Sexual Behavior: The polygamy and promiscuity practiced in different regions of Africa favors the spread of HIV / AIDS.
  • Prostitution: Due to poverty, prostitution is also widespread in Africa. The suitors are often men who move from place to place in search of work and often have changing sexual partners. Prostitutes and suitors get involved and carry the HI virus on.
  • Sexual violence against women: South Africa, one of the countries most affected by the epidemic, has one of the highest rates of rape in the world. Many women get AIDS because they were raped by an HIV-infected offender.

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AIDS in Africa: Poverty disease and humanitarian disaster

AIDS in Africa is one of the largest humanitarian catastrophes in the world, leading to serious social and economic consequences on the continent. Poverty is not only the cause, but also the result of the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

Social consequences:

  • Average life expectancy of the population is decreasing
  • Number of orphans is growing
  • Number of people living below the poverty line is increasing

Economic consequences:

  • Loss of labor
  • Reduction of production, especially in agriculture
  • rising health spending, which weighs on public budgets
  • Decrease in tax revenues
  • Decline in foreign investment
  • Reduction of economic growth
  • Development successes are nullified.


AIDS in Africa - current trends

After decades of bad news UNAIDS has recently been able to report considerable successes in the fight against AIDS in Africa: In many sub-Saharan African countries, the number of AIDS deaths has declined in recent years. While in 2006 in Sub-Saharan Africa still 1.54 million people died of the HI virus, in 2016 there were about 730,000. Between 2006 and 2016, new infections in the region also fell by around 35%.

Progress has also been made on the 90-90-90 targets the UN aims to achieve by 2020:

  • 90% of those infected are said to have received a diagnosis and to be aware that they carry the virus. As of 2016: 70%.
  • 90% of them should be in treatment and receive a life-saving antiretroviral therapy. As of 2016: 77%.
  • In 90% of those treated this should lead to a significant virus reduction, so that HIV is then more transferable. As of 2016: 82%.

The figures show that the measures taken to combat HIV / AIDS in Africa are having an effect and that the spread of the disease, if not stopped, can then be greatly reduced.


SOS Children's Villages in the fight against AIDS in Africa

Despite these achievements, people in Africa still need help - especially the children. SOS Children's Villages give AIDS orphans in Africa a home and a future.

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