A health crisis and beyond

For many years, AIDS was referred to as “the invisible epidemic”. HIV makes its silent way through a population for many years before infections develop into symptomatic AIDS and become a cause of recurring illness and, finally, death. The virus thus spread stealthily for years before AIDS deaths were registered in any significant numbers.

In industrialized countries AIDS activists succeeded in raising the profile of the epidemic early on. But in the developing world where most men and women with HIV live, it is only now, two decades after the virus first started spreading, that the repercussions of AIDS are stripping off its cloak of invisibility.

In countries with mature epidemics–Uganda in East Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa, for exampl–AIDS is leaving highly-visible damage in its wake. Some doctors report that three-quarters of beds on hospital paediatric wards are occupied by children ill from HIV. Millions of adults have died. Most have left behind orphaned children. Many have left surviving partners who are infected and in need of care. Their families struggle to find money to pay for their funerals, and their employers must now train other staff to replace them.

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