The history of HIV and AIDS in Zambia
[The last 2 paragrahs are shocking...]
(...)By the early nineties it was estimated that as many as 1 in 5 adults had been infected with HIV, leading the World Health Organization to call for the establishment of a National AIDS Advisory Council in Zambia. According to Stephen Lewis, the UN's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, throughout the 1990s the government was ‘disavowing the reality of AIDS’ and doing ‘nothing’ to combat the problem.7
The new millennium signalled a marked change in political attitude and, according to Stephen Lewis, ‘an entirely new level of determination’8 to confront the epidemic. The National HIV/AIDS/STD/TB Council (NAC) became operational in 2002 when Parliament passed a national AIDS bill that made the NAC a legally-established body able to apply for funding (the prospect of a large World Bank grant provided much of the necessary motivation). At the passing of this bill, the NAC became the single, high-level institution responsible for coordinating the actions of all segments of government and society in the fight against HIV and AIDS and is in charge of guiding the implementation of the National HIV and AIDS Strategic Framework (2006-2010).
In 2004, President Mwanawasa declared HIV/AIDS a national emergency and promised to provide antiretroviral drugs to 10,000 people by the end of the year. Having exceeded this target, he set another to provide free treatment for 100,000 by the end of 2005.
Government ministers and officials at all levels are now much more willing and able to talk about the epidemic. Even former president Kaunda has changed – he is now one of the most vocal and committed AIDS activists in the country. In 2008 UNAIDS reported a stabilising of Zambia's epidemic and some evidence of favourable behaviour change.
The impact of HIV in Zambia Unlike in some countries, HIV in Zambia does not primarily affect the most underprivileged; infection rates are very high among wealthier people and the better educated. HIV is most prevalent in the two urban centres of Lusaka and the Central Province, rather than in poorer rural populations.
The collapse of copper prices in the 1970's weakened Zambia's economy and saw an increase in the number of men seeking work away from home. The movement of miners, seasonal agricultural workers and young men between rural areas and urban centres has been shown to spread HIV to new areas. Zambia is now the most urbanised country in sub-Saharan Africa, with only a third of its population living in rural areas.
The impact on women
Although the HIV epidemic has spread throughout Zambia and to all parts of its society, some groups are especially vulnerable - most notably young women and girls. Among young women aged 15-24, HIV prevalence is nearly four times that of men in this age category.
A number of factors resulting from gender inequality contribute to the higher prevalence among women. Women are often taught never to refuse their husbands sex or to insist their partner uses a condom. In a Zambian behavioural survey, around 15 percent of women reported forced sex, although this may not reflect the true number as many women do not disclose this information. In addition, young women in Zambia typically become sexually active earlier than men, with partners who will be on average five years their senior and who may already have had a number of sexual partners.
The impact on economic productivity
The impact of AIDS has gone far beyond the household and community level. All areas of the public sector and the economy have been weakened, and national development has been stifled. As Zambia's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper acknowledges, "the epidemic is as much likely to affect economic growth as it is affected by it".
The loss of workers due to AIDS can lead to a large reduction in a nations economic productivity. Agriculture, from which the vast majority of Zambians make their living, is particularly affected by the impact of AIDS. A decline in the number of individuals able to work at the crucial periods of planting and harvesting can significantly reduce the size of the harvest. AIDS is believed to have made a major contribution to the food shortages that hit Zambia in 2002, which were declared a national emergency.
The impact on children
A road sign in Zambia confronting the "virgin AIDS cure myth"
Children have been much affected by the AIDS epidemic in Zambia, where 120,000 children are estimated to be infected with HIV. However, being HIV infected is not the only way that children are affected by HIV and AIDS. In 2009 there were 690,000 AIDS orphans in the country and AIDS orphans made up half of all orphans in the country. Children may be abandoned due to stigma or a simple lack of resources, while others run away because they have been mistreated and abused by foster families.
In 2003, it was revealed that increasing numbers of child rape cases were being fuelled by the "virgin cure" myth (which wrongly claims that sex with a virgin can cure AIDS). A 2005 study by the Applied Mental Health Research Group (part of the John Hopkins School of Public Health) reported that child sexual abuse was "a major problem" among the HIV-affected population of mothers and children studied in Lusaka, Zambia.