Mission Africa


South Africa 2004 (estimated):

HIV Infected: 6.3 million, including more than 100,000 babies

AIDS Deaths: 311,000

AIDS Orphans: 1.1 million

"Justice Edwin Cameron described how he nearly died of the disease three years before but was brought back to health by antiretroviral drugs he was able to afford. 'I have the privilege of purchasing my health, for about $400 a month. Why should I have the privilege of purchasing my life, when 34 million people around the world are becoming ill and dying? It is a moral inequity of fundamental proportions. No one can look at it and not be spurred to action'"..."I exist as a living embodiment of the inequity of drug availability in Africa. Amidst the poverty in Africa, I stand before you because I am able to purchase health and vigour."

In South Africa, HIV and AIDS have single-handedly reduced the country's life expectancy from 63 to 46 years and they have created more than one million orphans in a country of 44 million. In 2003, it was estimated that more than 20% of that 44 million was infected with HIV/AIDS. One in every five South Africans you might see walking down the street is carrying the virus in their bloodstream and many of them don't know it.

People who know they are infected or suspect they might be are often too afraid to speak up or seek treatment because speaking up results in being fired, kicked out of the house, being ostracized by their communities, or even killed. Quite often, hospitals won't even say someone died of AIDS, they will write "pneumonia" or "tuberculosis" on the death certificates.

For most people who want to be treated for HIV or AIDS, the cost of the antiretroviral drugs is just too high and the government and relief organizations are overwhelmed by the number of people needing help. Only about 56,000 South Africans are currently on the antiretroviral treatment drugs, which they must continue using for the rest of their lives. Only about 66,500 orphans and other vulnerable children are receiving the assistance they need.

"Kofi Annan estimated that the Global Fund on AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria would require US$8 billion a year to meet its targets. So far, only US$1.7 billion have been pledged over an average period of three years or 7.5% of the amount needed for that period."

To put that dollar amount into perspective, each year Americans spend:

-$470 million for online dating services
-$146 million on cell phones ringtones
-$13.7 billion for pet food
-$500 million on chewing gum
-$2.5 billion on Halloween candy and costumes

AIDS in South Africa began the same way it did in America, being first diagnosed among a small number of homosexual white men and then spreading to the heterosexual population. So why was the United States able to control the epidemic? Money and AIDS awareness. Enough money exists in the world to solve this problem but awareness is coming far too slowly.

Mission Africa is researching ways to respond to the AIDS crisis in Africa.

References and More Information:

- Progression of the AIDS Epidemic in South Africa

- Antiretroviral Treatment Information

- Stories of Tragedy and Hope, from the World Health Organization

- World Health Organization HIV links

- Fighting AIDS Among South African Teachers

- South African AIDS Statistics

- An interview with Judge Edwin Cameron, the only person holding a public office in South Africa who admits to having AIDS.

- Brazilian Generic ARV Drugs in South Africa

- World AIDS Statistics Maps