SEATTLE, Washington — Before the coronavirus pandemic, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and tuberculosis (TB) were two epidemics that continued to wreak havoc across many African countries. Coupled with the pandemic, countries in Africa are struggling to rebuild weakened healthcare systems, properly train staff, erect testing centers and provide accessible medicine to citizens. The health crisis in African countries can be observed in Côte d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic and South Africa. However, many world organizations continue to lend financial support to help citizens of these countries gain access to proper healthcare.
Political unrest in Côte d’Ivoire and the Central African Republic causes instability, while parts of South Africa are still underdeveloped and lack resources. The instability in each of these countries makes it hard to increase testing, supply hospital equipment and train staff. With an increase in pressure from COVID-19, the health crisis in African countries requires more assistance than ever before.
History of Diseases in African Countries
HIV was one of the first diseases to plague the African continent, with the first case tracing back to 1959. In Côte d’Ivoire and the Central African Republic, the prevalence of HIV has reached an all-time high of 2.9% and 4.9% respectively. On the other hand, South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV, with a prevalence of 19%. That means one in five adults living in South Africa will likely contract HIV.
Because HIV causes a weakened immune system, those who test positive are also more likely to contract TB. Tuberculosis has been an equally frightening epidemic and has contributed greatly to the health crisis in African countries. TB can be active, latent and/or drug-resistant. Having a latent or drug-resistant form of tuberculosis can make it harder to treat but easier to spread.
In 2018, there were more than 6,000 citizens in the Central African Republic with TB and HIV. In Côte d’Ivoire, 20% of those who have tested positive for TB also have positive HIV results. Shockingly, the comorbidity rate for HIV/TB in South Africa is at 60%.
Propelled by the HIV and TB epidemics, the health crisis in African countries is only getting worse. This is especially true as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. It is evident that these countries must receive ample funding for testing centers, awareness campaigns and accessible, better-equipped hospitals.
Despite the various challenges each of these countries face, world organizations have helped alleviate the burden. Through consistent funding, these countries can make testing centers, hospitals and medicine more available for citizens. International organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) help these countries handle diseases like HIV, tuberculosis and COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
In support of the Global Health Security Agenda, the CDC works closely with the government of Côte d’Ivoire. They provide more testing centers for HIV and TB and increase contact tracing of various diseases. Additionally, the CDC advises travelers to the Central African Republic to receive vaccinations before entering the country and funds clinical studies supporting research for drug-resistant TB.
In South Africa, the CDC works through its Global AIDS program with the health sector to help eradicate HIV and TB. By increasing screening, funding medical centers and monitoring the spread of these diseases, the CDC is alleviating the health crisis in South Africa.
The World Health Organization
In cooperation with WHO, Côte d’Ivoire and the Ministry of Health have developed strategies to improve the healthcare system. They hope to provide citizens with proper testing and medication. Within these strategies, WHO intends to work more closely with the government of Côte d’Ivoire, strengthen emergency responses and increase funding for healthcare providers.
In the Central African Republic, WHO is helping them achieve their Sustainable Development Goals through the strengthening of governance, developing a rebuilding plan for the healthcare system, rehabilitating infrastructure of the health sector and increasing funding for medicines.
Finally, in South Africa, WHO is working toward lowering hospital fees. The organization is implementing national health insurance and ensuring hospitals take care of those who need treatment for TB, HIV and other diseases.
The United Nations
The United Nations’ AIDS response in Côte d’Ivoire is providing health kits amid the coronavirus pandemic. In the Central African Republic, the United Nations is also helping the humanitarian crisis by providing resources for citizens affected personally by COVID-19. To address the pandemic and other diseases, the United Nations is sending trained professionals to South Africa to provide care and guidance for citizens. UNAIDS is also helping South Africans through increased testing and treatment for those living with the illness.
Ultimately, the citizens of these countries are impoverished and in need of better healthcare provisions. With sustained funding from these organizations, the health crisis in African countries can be eradicated in the next decade.
– Danielle Kuzel