There are over 36 million people who live with HIV in the world today. 34 million of them (or 95%) live in the developing world.
Sub-Saharan Africa has been hit especially hard. Almost 70% of all HIV-infected patients live there. Without treatment, people who progress to AIDS survive one to three years. However, if you are taking ART and maintain a low viral load, then you may enjoy a near normal life span.
The CDC reports that the estimated lifetime cost of treating HIV is $379,000. The problem is that a huge amount of the population is living in extreme poverty. Many of which are living on $2 a day ($730 per year).
Clearly, there is an economic problem in fighting the spread of HIV.
Okay, so we say lets print brochures on how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and promote abstinence. But 24% of all illiterate adults in the world live in sub-Saharan Africa. (Which means the rising generation will rely on someone else to teach them to read.)
Not to mention that even when you can get the material to the right person, who is to say they are going to follow the advice they read on a brochure? Because now we are getting to the root of the problem, which is culture.
The culture promotes HIV: Drug use, sex traffickers, children who were born with HIV, gender inequality, criminals that spread the disease, discrimination, cultural stigmas of the use of condoms, battling the status-quo.
How do you change an entire culture?
This is a complex problem that is going to need a complex solution.
At no fault of their own, these people live in a different century. I truly believe that education for the neglected, particularly reading and writing, is one of the best tools we can give to people to pull them closer to dignity, opportunity and equality.
However, access, that we take for granted, is a luxury not a novelty.
It’s easy for any one in these circumstances to lose hope. And it’s easy for us sheltered by these problems to lose respect for those enslaved by their circumstances.
Despite the challenges they face, there is hope for a brighter future. For the first time ever in the history of the world, we are connected. 3 billion people now have access to the internet. And there is a new door opening. A new opportunity to solve interesting problems. Big problems. One that will take global efforts. Like the spread of HIV but also things like global warming or gender inequality or poverty or malaria.
This is the greatest time in human history to ever live. We should start acting liking it and stop worrying about what we can’t control like jobs being shipped to foreign countries, self-driving cars replacing truck drivers, budget cuts, college educations that don’t guarantee good jobs, the rise of debt…Here’s the thing: People will always be worried about their future as long as their future holds uncertainty. We live in a world that is constantly changing. You cannot possibly be competent in a world that is always changing. What an opportunity to have machines do menial tasks that we don’t want to do anyway and free up our time to do work that matters.
We have been liberated by prosperity, but we cannot be fulfilled by it. Abundance is not enough.
Our best shot at building a culture we can all be proud of is bringing everyone we can with us as we take the next step. But we cannot do it without first acknowledging there is a problem. We cannot do it without seeing what is actually happening.
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb