FRONTLINE/WORLD . flashPOINT . POSITHIV+: AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa: background . PBS

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Background

Map of AfricaAIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa
A report published in April 2007 by UNAIDS, the World Health Organization and UNICEF revealed that access to anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment has steadily increased in many African countries over the past few years. More than 2 million HIV/AIDS sufferers now receive the life-prolonging medication, an increase of more than 50 percent since 2005. But despite major funding from organizations such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the U.S. president's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, both of which have pledged billions of dollars to fight the spread of the disease, the world's worst-affected nations are far from receiving universal coverage. In terms of the spread of the virus, Africa is the hardest hit region in the world. According to the group DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa), founded in 2002 by U2 singer Bono, more than 17 million Africans have died from AIDS, and close to 25 million more are currently infected. 

Getting ARV treatment to the neediest cases across Sub-Saharan Africa presents a number of challenges. Even as the price of ARVs has dropped dramatically in recent years, and the cheapest drugs are now available for $1 a day, the cost is still beyond the means of many of Africa's poorest. Added to that, the sheer remoteness of some communities and the lack of trained health workers to properly administer the drugs and provide education about the virus have proved to be major obstacles in curtailing the spread of AIDS, which is now the leading cause of death in Africa.

The regional impact of AIDS is particularly acute in Sub-Saharan Africa. According to the World Bank, more than 60 percent of all people infected with HIV live in the region, despite the fact that it's home to only 10 percent of the world's overall population.

"The reality of AIDS is very, very hard. I’ve seen more people suffering from AIDS than people living with AIDS, and that has been my experience in Sub-Saharan Africa. But you cannot only show that. There is a hope, and this is one of the main things that I really like in Africa. People have hope, and they are very strong. "
- Pep Bonet
The Photographer
Pep BonetPep Bonet was born in Mallorca in 1974 and studied photography in Amsterdam. In 2005 Bonet won the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography and, in 2007, a World Press Photo award. During the last four years, his work has focused on Africa and several long-term projects, including "Faith in Chaos," about post-war Sierra Leone, and "Posithiv+," documenting the issue of HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. He is currently working on a photographic project in Somalia.

Read the interview

Visit Pep Bonet's Web site

Related Links

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
This Web site publishes the latest reports on AIDS statistics and prevention in Africa, including regional progress reports, health updates and fund-raising activities. There are also links to audio, video and photo coverage of previous World AIDS Day events from around the globe.

UNAIDS
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS covers initiatives to fight the spread of the virus at both the grassroots and the international policy levels. An amalgam of leading aid groups and donor organizations formed in 2001 as a global response to the pandemic, UNAIDS has mandated 2015 as the year when the world should see a reversal in the spread of HIV/AIDS.

AIDS Portal
As the name suggests, this portal brings together a global network of organizations and individuals working to combat AIDS. The site is rich in resource tools and the latest study reports, and provides a contact registry for people working in the field.

The Age of AIDS
In May 2006, on the 25th anniversary of the first diagnosed cases of AIDS, FRONTLINE examines the AIDS pandemic in a multipart series called The Age of AIDS. The series covers social stigma, stunning scientific breakthroughs, bitter policy battles and inadequate prevention campaigns as HIV/AIDS continues to spread rapidly throughout much of the world.

Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF)
The internationally recognized humanitarian aid organization provides emergency medical assistance in more than 70 countries. The Web site documents the work of MSF in both its advocacy and medical support on the ground in the world’s most distressed regions.

POSITHIV+ (Rozenberg Publishers)
Published on World AIDS Day in 2005, the book features the work of photographer Pep Bonet and is a collaboration between Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) groups in Holland and Spain and Rozenberg Publishers in the Netherlands. The introduction is written by MSF chairman, Rowan Gillies.

Stories of Hope: HIV/AIDS in Zambia
PANOS London works with a network of 3,000 journalists across the developing world to produce news reports and analysis on health, conflict, human rights, the environment and other pressing global issues. In this feature, listen to the stories of men and women from Zambia whose lives have dramatically improved since receiving anti-retroviral medicines.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention
The government agency provides an overview of HIV/AIDS statistics and collects and analyzes case data to better understand and combat the virus.

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