SOCIOECONOMIC JUSTICE IS NEEDED TO GIVE MEANING TO THE LIVES OF YOUTH LIVING WITH HIV/AIDS IN AFRICA.
For about thirty years now, the international community has worked so hard to medically save lives of people afflicted with HIV/AIDS in Africa, however a new problem has arisen: Children born with HIV/AIDS - whose lives have been saved and are guaranteed by antiretroviral medications - are now adults with a fresh set of socioeconomic challenges threatening their own survival. Thankful to be alive they are at once stigmatized and without hope. With their bodies scarred over a lengthy battle with the disease most youth living with HIV/AIDS (YLWA) are distinguishable and easily identifiable. Employers do not want to take them on (because it is thought they will elicit workplace curiosity and possibly miss many work hours through secondary sickness) and they have no friends/lovers (for their illnesses could be contagious) as their communities treat them disdainfully. YLWA are stigmatized and ostracized, poor, and dejected; they have no hope for happiness.
Whereas in the developed countries of the world sociopsychoeconomic needs of YLWA are variously addressed, this is not so in the developing countries.
The hope for these YLWA in poor countries of the world is economic empowerment: Economic progress and success will garner them social acceptability and recognition within their communities. Economic empowerment will bring YLWA happiness. At Community Concepts Inc, we aim to redeem YLWA. We believe and want to prove that living with AIDS/HIV is neither a handicap nor a life sentence. We also wish to change social perception in poor countries by debunking discrimination of YLWA as misconceived and ignorant. Our mission in this respect is part of our overall pursuit for socioeconomic justice for discriminated youths in poor countries of the world.
Without socioeconomic justice for YLWA, medical intervention would not have achieved a desired end. People that have chronic illnesses need medication to be able to live fulfilling lives; they need medication to live happy lives devoid of pain and stress. But to medically extend one???s life, only for it to be a life of misery is a negation of the hope of science. In Africa, where the lives of youths living with HIV/AIDS have been medically prolonged, these extended lives are largely miserable. Socioeconomic justice is needed to give meaning to the lives of youth living with HIV/AIDS in Africa.
One way these lives could be empowered is if a large beverage company like Coca Cola or Pepsi Cola employed these youths as their salesmen. The drinks sold by these two companies are more ubiquitous than a pair of shoes in Africa. These youths could be trained and capitalized to form a chain of salesmen in the African countries, where they exist. This measure would go a long way in empowering YLWA across the continent. In 2014 Coca Cola???s total global revenue was 40,420 million dollars; the African region comprised a respectable 7% of these sales.
Additionally, in countries where YLWA abound, there is need for a system of group homes, which could be used as centers of solace that offer decent living; complete with water, sanitation, and assured hygiene. These homes will, additionally, ensure provision of necessary nutrition and adherence/unencumbered medication. These homes will also facilitate skills training programs: Training programs meant to equip YLWA with special skills that would boost their employability and hence economic empowerment. These homes would eventually serve as stabilization centers where enabled YLWA would proceed to independent living.
There are several measures that could be instituted to help alleviate the misery of YLWA.
Community Concepts Inc in Boston is the first international nonprofit to champion the plight of YLWA in Africa and other poor countries of the world.
It is a very tough situation for children born with HIV/AIDS in poor countries. In most cases the parents of such children or at least one of them has passed on due to AIDS. Since the parents are the family's bread winners it implies that the poverty situation of the affected family gets worse with the death (s), as income reduces drastically. Unfortunately, the affected household needs more financial resources to cater for the burials of the dead, and the sickness of the children. Even if medication is free, which is the usual case thanks to global health donors, there's need for transportation, lunch, medication for secondary ailments (like fevers and colds). Since children also traditionally provide supplementary labor to their parents, such labor is now lost since they are sickly most of the time. The burden of bringing up these poor, sick, and highly demanding orphans falls upon extended family members, who most times divide up the affected children with each relative taking one or two in accordance to their own economic situations. It is at this early stage that the social world of these orphans falls apart. The orphans will live thanks to availability of free medicine but they are traumatized because their parents are dead, they are separated with their off springs, and are now living with relatives they never knew or knew very little about, who in turn will treat them as second class individuals because they are sick this is where stigma starts. In a slightly better situation the orphans will live by themselves and take charge of their affairs under patronage of relatives living not so far away from the children's home.
"The support system for AIDS orphans in most parts of rural Africa the extended family has always been important in providing care for children whose parents are dead or not able to take care of their children. Children may be sent away to live with relatives when the family does not have sufficient funds. Caring for orphans is a characteristic feature of the rural African extended family. Preble argues that "orphans usually have been willingly and relatively easily adopted by other family members" (Preble 1990:678). However, if the adopting family have restricted resources, the children's education and nutritional status is likely to deteriorate. Today, a large proportion of households has to care for an orphan. Although many orphans are taken care of by the relatives and incorporated into existing households, the stress on the resources of these households may be substantial (Barnett and Blaikie 1992). A study from Zimbabwe reports that almost half of the caregivers were grandparents of the orphans and a third of the caregivers were over 60 years (Foster et al. 1996:389). The study from Tanzania referred to above shows that many orphans were taken care of by grandmothers. The epidemic has further increased the dependency burden and jeopardised the future welfare of the surviving older generation (Tibaijuka 1997:972). In Tanzania the traditional system that used to take care of vulnerable groups is reported to be breaking down, which will mean an increased need for safety-net programmes (The United Republic of Tanzania 2001b:10)." (1)
"Children in sub-Saharan Africa are probably the most vulnerable group and suffer hard from the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Children may grow up in circumstances less than optimal for their development as limited resources may restrict the family's ability to provide sufficient care. Possible consequences are deterioration of the children's situation in terms of education and nutrition. From Zambia it is reported that more than 50 per cent of children are chronically malnourished (UNAIDS and UNICEF 1999:15)
Girls are the first to suffer as they are the most likely to be taken out of school to support the household (UNAIDS 1999b:21). It is reported that children are increasingly seen as a part of the labour force and expected to assist the parents from the age of 8-9 years (Barrett and Browne 2001, see also Danziger 1994:907-908). Extensive involvement in the farming tasks of the household is not compatible with maintaining an adequate focus on education. The primary school enrolment rate in communities that are hard hit by HIV/AIDS is decreasing. A recent report from South Africa states that since 1998, enrolment in first grade has dropped 60 %, and the decline is even more dramatic for girls, suggesting a growing gender imbalance (USA Today 2002). Furthermore, schooling facilities may be severely affected by the increasing deaths from AIDS. A recent report from South Africa also points to the grim fact that 85 % of schools in the province studied have reported the death of teachers "presumably" from AIDS-related illnesses (USA Today 2002). The loss of qualified teachers will severely undermine the education system in countries hard hit by HIV/AIDS." (2)
(1), (2) are extracts from a study by Jan Isaksen Nils Gunnar Songstad Arild Spiss°y titled the ???Socio-economic effects of HIV/AIDS in African countries??? ; A study commissioned by NORAD (2002).