A hemophiliac, young Ryan had contracted the disease through the infusion of blood resources that had long served as his life force; and then that life force, infected with HIV, failed him (Levitt & Rosenthal, 1999). As the young boy bravely faced the demons of the ravaging disease, friends, relatives and outpourings of public support and love marked his journey. Surrounded by his family, and new friends like the rock star Elton John, Ryan, like so many others lost his battle to AIDS.
Sociologically devastating, HIV / AIDS has, by its recession from a pandemic affliction in the United States, to a condition that responds to treatment, although treatment does not constitute a cure; has left a new condition in its wake. This new condition is what persists in the present and third phase of the disease; hundreds of thousands afflicted with a disease that because of treatments allows people to live longer, but does little to improve the quality of their lives (Levitt & Rosenthal, 1999).
The third phase of HIV / AIDS is the treatment phase then. It constitutes the availability of drugs to treat the disease, which gives the afflicted time; but which is very expensive and not easily affordable to those people who are caught between abject poverty and still employed but not insured for their health. The Ryan White Act was legislation aimed at propping up collapsing community healthcare infrastructures that were giving in to the weight of the epidemic (Levitt & Rosenthal, 1999). Under the Act, quality of life would be improved by access to healthcare, drugs and support services for families coping with the condition of their loved ones (1999). "Indeed the legislation represented the largest allocation of funds to date for the support of medical and support services in response to a single disease (1999)." The Health Resources and Services Administration is responsible for oversight of the funding (1999). Like so many other causes that receive large funding of federal dollars, there is always controversy and disagreement on how the funds should be dispersed, and to which organizations. The Ryan Act was no exception, and since its passage to an Act, there has been much debate and controversy over its allocation (Leavitt & Rosenthal, 1999).
The fact is that there is just not enough funding to cover the enormous expense that HIV / AIDS takes for a single person, multiplied by hundreds of thousands, to cope with in their lives. Nor does the treatment of HIV / AIDS mean that those afflicted with the disease enjoy a long lasting or permanent quality of life. In fact, many people who were accustomed to living at the high end of the scale economically have found themselves not only physically devastated, but financially ravished by the requirements of healthcare to maintain treatment of the disease and to remain alive (Levitt & Rosenthal, 1999).
This is in the United States, and is mirrored in many industrial nations around the world. In third world countries, like Africa, there are limited treatment resources because most of the treatment is donated to those African nations by the U.S. And other more prosperous countries. In those countries the treatment is an up-hill battle, because to the extent that treatment is available those individuals who receive the treatment are not consistent in following the treatment regimens (Seckinelgin, H., 2005). As of 2005, approximately 29 million people across Africa were estimated to be living with HIV / AIDS (Seckinelgin, H., 2005) the number if overwhelming, and far exceeds the ability of philanthropic and charitable organizations to contend with the demands of care and treatment.
In addition to the care and treatment of the afflicted, there is the need to create and expand and develop avenues of education and information that helps the citizens of these nations understand how to prevent its spread, and to take precautions against becoming infected with the disease (Seckinelgin, H., 2005). The problem, as previously mentioned, is often traditional customs in patriarchal societies where manhood and certain sexual behaviors are synonymous (Seckinelgin, H., 2005).
The problems of HIV / AIDS in Africa cannot be addressed by a single source. It requires world attention and world action where countries that have the funds and the treatments come together in a major effort and undertaking to save Africa. Unfortunately, the religious and political environments of some of the African nations make a collective effort impossible; and to that extent the world shall sadly witness the carnage of the disease as it eliminates more than half the African population.
Another problem arising out of the HIV / AIDS problem in Africa is the orphaned children that have been left behind by mothers and fathers and family whose meager lives have been even more adversely affected by this horrible disease. Many of these young children and infants are themselves suffering from the disease (Secklingen, H., 2005). Organizations like the United Nations Children Fun (UNICEF), the World Food Program (WFP), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and other such entities and charities all contribute and take proactive steps to help bring the issue of HIV / AIDS in Africa to the world political arena and picture and to keep focus on the problem at a world level.
No other problem in the history of mankind has brought so many nations and communities and governments together in a single-minded goal: to provide treatment of this tragic and destructive disease, and to find a cure for it.
There is, at this time, no cure in sight. Funding for research continues to be weighed against the need to treat the disease and for resources to help people around the world cope with the effects of the disease in their lives. However, there is much synergy in the effort to address the problem, as overwhelming as that problem is.
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