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AIDS Crisis Impact South Africa from 1980-2000

Updated May 13, 2021
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AIDS Crisis Impact South Africa from 1980-2000 essay

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This investigation will explore the question: To what extent did the AIDS crisis impact South Africa from 1980-2000, with specific focus on the economic impact? There will be an analysis of the economic state of South Africa after the outbreak of HIV/AIDS.

This first source which will be evaluated in depth is Simon Dixon’s secondary source “The impact of HIV and AIDS on Africa’s Economic Development” written in 2002. The purpose of this source was to provide the reader with specific data from the time period and to inform the reader of the AIDS crisis in South Africa. The origin of this source is valuable because Dixon specializes in health economics, has a profound understanding of the AIDS crisis in South Africa and has written extensively on AIDS epidemic in scholarly journals and books, indicating that he is knowledgeable on the topic.

Also, the data provided by the author enhances its value because it indicates that Dixon has been able to incorporate a wide range of sources such as statistics, graphs, and charts demonstrating the decline of the economy in South Africa. The statistical data that was presented enhances the value of the source because it demonstrates the large quantity of black africans that were infected with HIV that were unemployed. The content of this source, however, is limited because through the assessment of the impact of AIDs on the economic development of South Africa, Dixon only addresses a singular perspective on the topic.

Thus, being a great disadvantage when it comes to analyzing and forming new opinions in relation to the topic. Another limitation to the source is that the author investigated the impact of the AIDS crisis in all of Africa, not specifically focusing on South Africa. This is limiting to the investigation because though this source has information pertaining to South Africa and the impact of AIDS, the majority of the source focuses on Africa as a whole, limiting the amount of information that is available to the investigation.

The second source which will be evaluated in depth is Clifton C. Crais’s primary source “the South Africa Reader: History, Culture, Politics” written in 2014. The purpose of this source was to gather quotes and first-hand experiences from South Africans and combine them into one book. A value of the origin of the sources is that the collection of direct experiences of the South African people during the time of the AIDS epidemic.

It provides insight into the time period and would express the emotions and sentiments of the South African people during a time in history where there was a lot of chaos and confusion. The content is also of value because it allows the reader to consider how the AIDS epidemic affected the underrepresented people of South Africa.

The content allows the voices and sentiments of underrepresented citizens of South Africa to be acknowledged. However, the purpose is limited because although this source provides a wide variety of perspectives, there is a lack of detail and background information about the time period. Therefore, the purpose doesn’t allow for an elaborate understanding of the context information. Finally, the content of this source is limited because contains a limited perspective on the topic.

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)is a deadly disease, which is currently not curable. AIDS is the term for the condition that is caused by the advancement of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). HIV weakens the human immune system and harms the body’s ability to resist or recover from illnesses. HIV was identified as the source of AIDS around 1983. “HIV destroys blood cells called CD4+ T cells which are crucial to the normal function of the human immune system.” (Hodes).

The first case of AIDS in South Africa was reported in 1982, during a time where there was increased repression by the apartheid state. In 1983, the virus was isolated and its transmission was established: “principally transmitted via unprotected sex, from mother to child in utero or through breastfeeding, and from needle sharing in intravenous drug use”(Hodes). This same year the first recorded case of AIDS was reported in South Africa following by the first recorded AIDS related death. The government did little as the HIV problem progressed and gradually the problem begin to advance.

In 1985, the Department of Health launched its first HIV/AIDS awareness campaign that did not convey a clear message about modes of HIV transmission and therefore prompted panic and paranoia within South African citizens. In 1987, the African Research and Educational Puppetry Programme (AREPP) was founded as a community-based educational trust in South Africa.

It is used to break down racial, cultural, language and educational taboos and barriers on HIV/AIDS at a time in South Africa’s history when HIV/AIDS potential had not yet been fully realized.“by 2000 nearly 58 million people had been infected by HIV and 22 million had already died and the epidemic continued to spread. HIV/AIDS is a long-wave event compared with other epidemics” (Whiteside 313) South Africa is home to the largest concentration of people living with HIV anywhere in the world. Due to the rapid increase of mortality, the economy of South Africa was greatly impacted because there was reduction of labour supply, increase in poverty and the lack of government involvement therefore the economy was not able to develop.

Due to the large spread of AIDS, the economy in South Africa was impacted due to the increase in unemployment. Looking at source 1, unemployment in South Africa went from 9.2% in 1980 to 21.6% in 1998. The increase in people not working suggests that there is also an increase in the amount of people who do not have an income. Due to apartheid, this put blacks of South Africa at a disadvantage and therefore have a limited amount of job options.

The majority of high- paying jobs were held by whites and blacks tend to work in the mining industry and agriculture. When the outbreak of AIDS first started, the blacks had a higher percentage of AIDS cases than the whites. Since blacks tend to have more labour intensive jobs, the increase in AIDS cases caused the amount of people working to decrease because AIDS makes the immune system more susceptible to disease and illness, therefore more people were sick and could not attend their jobs.

The Treatment Access Campaign (TAC), South Africa’s leading HIV advocacy organization, began lobbying for the introduction of a public program for prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), from its inception in late 1998.

Due to the large spread of AIDS, the economy in South Africa was impacted due to the increase in poverty. Poverty is the state of being extremely poor. As stated above, there was an increase in the amount of people unemployed during the AIDS epidemic in South Africa. One factor that contributed to the decline of the economy in South Africa was the amount of people living in poverty.

In the case of South Africa, HIV/AIDS is disease specific to poverty. According to “People between the ages of 15-49 are most likely to contract HIV/AIDS and they are also the people making most of the contributions to the economy.” Looking at source 2, there is a enormous gap between the percent of blacks living in poverty (64.2%) versus the percentage of whites living in poverty(1%). SInce the majority of Blacks were living in poverty, without jobs and they made up the largest percentage of HIV infections, they were unable to pay for the expensive treatment and medication needed to prevent the spread of the disease.

During Nelson Mandela’s presidency from 1994-1999, he did not fully address the rise of HIV related deaths in South Africa. His failure to address the rise in HIV in South Africa was considered his biggest mistake of his presidency. Therefore in Mandela’s presidency he did minimal to address the rise of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. After Mandela, president Thabo Mbeki was considered the ultimate reason for the unreasonable deaths due to hiv.

A citizen of South Africa states that Mbeki “threw the gov response even further off track he latched on to the writings of western scientist who dissented from the well accepted theory that HIV infections is the cause of aids. blames aids crisis on African hyper sexuality and understate the role of poverty played in public health”(Crais). Mbeki claimed antiretroviral (ARVs) drugs were poisonous and that poverty and malnutrition were killing people, rather than HIV.

During 1980 and 2000, the government of South Africa was recovering from the removal of apartheid and the development of democracy. In 1998, the Treatment Access Campaign began and was “South Africa’s leading HIV advocacy organization, began lobbying for the introduction of a public program for prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), from its inception in late 1998” (Hodes). Their main purpose was to campaign for equitable and affordable access to ARV drugs and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS. Also to promote quality health care for all people of South Africa.

Also the Health department created the National Advisory group, which lobby for and drafted a national AIDS plan for South Africa. “This plan was accepted by the new government 3 months into its term of office in 1994 HIV prevalence subsequently rose from 0.8% in 1990 to 4.3% by 1994, and now rests at 12.3% of the total population.] Tragically, 1998 – 2008 was to prove a testing period for the country as the full extent of the epidemic’s health impact became apparent, in the face of President Thabo Mbeki’s increasingly apparent denialism.( Hodes) ”

To conclude, Due to the large spread of AIDS throughout South Africa , the economy was greatly impacted between 1980 to 2000 because the disease caused an increase of unemployment, increase in poverty and overall the epidemic hampered the development of the economy. The declining growth rate that started in the 70’s continued into the 80’s where it plateaued. After Apartheid, blacks of South Africa were at an economic disadvantage and it was difficult to advance as a country when 80% of the population was living in Poverty. The AIDS crisis only hampered the development of the economy and with the lack of government action, the economy of South Africa failed to grow.

Throughout this investigation of the impact of AIDS on the economy in South Africa, I became cognizant of the methods utilized by historians when inquiring on a topic. I was able to develop my skills in examining sources to determine their validity, considering different perspectives in regards to my investigation and finding data relevant to the research question. In order to carry out my investigation, I read historical documents, analyzed statistics and data, and read books written by historians.

When I was investigating my research question, I came across a multitude of sources that viewed the AIDS epidemic in South Africa in different perspectives. For example, when I examined The Impact of HIV and AIDS on Africa’s Economic Development, It discussed how AIDS caused high rates of unemployment due to the lack of medication available to the people with the disease and therefore there was an increase in unemployment.

On the other hand, when I examined, HIV/ AIDS in South Africa, this source focused on the lack of government response when the issue was beginning caused the epidemic to grow and cause many to die. I initially struggled to create a cohesive thesis, but as I was nearing the end of my investigation, I began to understand the process in which a historian might reach a conclusion, and how they thoroughly research a topic beforehand. I was struggling to create a thesis because the research that i conducted was limited by the amount of accurate information that was available.

It was difficult to find accurate data about the amount people from different racial groups that had HIV. This made it challenging to create a thesis because I didn’t have the correct data to support what I was going to argue. I decided to .However after reviewing South Africa in class, I began to fully understand the state of South Africa after the end of apartheid and how this epidemic affected a developing democratic country.

After getting a well rounded understanding of South Africa during this time period and considering all the perspectives when I was conducting my investigation, I was able to create a thesis that encapsulated all the information gained through my research. The role of a historian is not to establish whether a thesis is right or wrong; instead to consider all perspectives and understand what factors impacted their decision.

Overall through the process in writing, I enhanced my researching skills and I developed skills as a historian. This investigation allowed me to learn more about South Africa and provided valuable insight into process of a historian. Furthermore, it allowed me to face the challenges that historians face and that history can be told from different perspectives while still containing factual information.

Work Cited

  1. Bottaro, Jean, and John Stanley. History for the IB Diploma: Evolution and Development of Democratic States (1848-2000). 2nd ed., Cambridge, Cambridge UP, 2016.
  2. Crais, Clifton C., and Thomas V. McClendon. The South Africa Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Durham, Duke UP, 2014.
  3. Dixon, Simon, Scott McDonald, and Jennifer Roberts. “The Impact of HIV and AIDS on Africa’s Economic Development.” BMJ : British Medical Journal324.7331 (2002): 232–234. Print.
  4. Hodes, Rebecca. ‘HIV/ AIDS in South Africa.’ African History Oxford Research Encyclopedias, Mar. 2018, africanhistory.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190277734.001.0001/acrefore-9780190277734-e-299. Accessed 8 Nov. 2018.
  5. Over, Mead. Achieving an AIDS Transition: Preventing Infections to Sustain Treatment. Brookings Institution Press, 2011. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.7864/j.ctt1gpcdpx.
  6. Wexler, Barbara. ‘HIV/AIDS Costs and Treatment.’ AIDS/HIV, 2012 ed., Gale, 2012, pp. 81-98. Information Plus Reference Series. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX4189100012/GVRL?u=rest89187&sid=GVRL&xid=c118ebb2. Accessed 1 Oct. 2018.
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