Business Day, 05 December 2002, Focus must be on poor

IN A recent article, a writer indicated that AIDS knows no race, class or gender. According to death statistics recently released by Statistics SA, the opposite seems to be the truth.

Black females are the worst affected and white females least affected. Why? The report also confirms that living standards seem to be the greatest discriminating factor in AIDS deaths and rates of infection. Deaths among the affluent are incredibly low when compared with the poor. Therefore I find it sad that AIDS activists seem to dismiss the effects of poverty on AIDS deaths.

I have read literature that highlights the post-death effects of AIDS on the economy, which seem to be more of a denial that poverty before death is a causal factor. Poverty reduces access to medication and better medical care, but this is not its only effect.

Poverty reduces the ability of the destitute to live hygienic and sheltered lifestyles. In this respect, black females are exposed to the full effects of poverty and have to endure the stresses created by mothering and wifery within that context. They are also exposed to discriminatory customs of misinterpreted African culture. It is in these areas that we need to refocus our efforts.

AIDS activists still choose to focus on treatment rather than alleviation of causal factors such as poverty. Treatment still focuses on symptomatic relief rather than cures. I believe the solution lies in boosting the immune system rather than fighting the virus. The body must be given the opportunity to fight the virus naturally (with its own immune system). That opportunity can be created by medication, but mostly by hygienic lifestyles and healthy diets.

My view is that HIV is not a death sentence, but a challenge to those living with the virus.

Improved lifestyles have increased the life spans of those living with the virus and this must be recognised.