AIDS happens to be one of the major health concerns not only in the United States but also in the world. It is justifiable to state that the United States is doing well as far as dealing with the disease is concerned compared to most countries in the world, but it is a huge concern nevertheless. People living with AIDS face numerous challenges. These challenges are felt by the government healthcare planning in form of spending on such crucial areas as care for those suffering from the disease, the provision of drugs and the care given to the children orphaned by the disease. With all elements in mind, the shift in population among people with AIDS is a significant issue for both private entities as well as the government. In this research paper, the demographic nature of people with AIDS in the United States will be examined and the changes over certain time intervals analyzed. This will be followed by a discussion of the implication or the effects of these changes on policy as it applies to healthcare in particular and national planning in general, what can be done to reduce the cost of care and a brief conclusion.
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The Current Scenario/ The statistics
HIV/AIDS has epidemic status in the United States. The Center for Disease Control reports that, by 2007, more than 500,000 Americans had succumbed to this dreaded disease (Center for Disease Control 2009, pp.1-2). This is a reliable number given the near accurate recording capability in the country. The changes that have occurred among people with AIDS have been worrisome just like the disease itself. In 2008, the United States had 55,000 new infections (UNAIDS/WHO Fact Sheet 2009, p.1). This is a huge number and therefore a bad sign for the country. The same UNAIDS/WHO report further states that since the 1990s, the number of people who get infected with HIV/AIDS each year has remained fairly stable (UNAIDS/WHO Fact Sheet 2009, p.1). This means that, on average, 55,000 Americans get infected with HIV/AIDS each year. The available information also points the nature of distribution of the HIV/AIDS cases. As a melting pot, the United States has white European Americans who are the majority; African Americans who have held the second slot in population for some time, but have now been overcome by Hispanics have the largest number of people suffering from HIV/AIDS. The report shows that the African American HIV/AIDS cases constitute nearly half of the total number of cases. Closely behind them are Hispanics and Whites (Center for Disease Control 2009, pp.1-2). The report further reveals that there has been a dramatic rise in the number of infections among men who engage in sexual activity with other men (Center for Disease Control 2009, pp.1-2). These are some of the details that show the changes that have been taking place in the American population as far as HIV/AIDS is concerned. It is important to note that a stable annual infection figure of 55,000 means that 55,000 HIV/AIDS new patients are added to the population.
Leaving the above aside, it has been established that poverty is a great incentive to HIV/AIDS (Center for Disease Control and Prevention Press Release 2010, p.1). It is therefore not surprising that the urban poor neighborhoods of the United States have disproportionately high numbers of people living with HIV/AIDS, and the persistent poverty will continue putting more people in harm’s way. What effects do these changes have?
Effects of Population change among people with HIV/AIDS
In a more general sense, a strain on the healthcare system of the country is the obvious result of an increase in the number of people with HIV/AIDS. The nation will be required to spend more money in ensuring that these people are provided with the medical care they deserve in terms of drugs and other ways. However there are numerous effects associated with the straining of the healthcare system by people with HIV/AIDS. These effects include rise in the amount of money spent on prescription drugs, the increased need for home care for AIDS patients who are physically unable to take care of themselves, and the reduction of funds invested in medical research related to other health concerns as a result of the new spending are brought up by the new HIV/AIDS infections. Let’s pay close attention to the increase in the amount of money spent on prescription drugs and the reduced investment in research related to other health concerns.
Increase In The Amount Of Money Spent On Prescription Drugs
With the rise in the number of people with HIV/AIDS, the drugs that are used to deal with the opportunistic infections that are associated with the disease will have to be produced in large numbers. This means more resources will be invested in the expensive production process and the cost of production will be passed on to consumers. It is therefore definite that prescription drugs will become expensive. The fact that the infection rate per year has remained fairly stable at 55,000 does not change the reality that this is an increase in the number of people with HIV/AIDS. The government investment in the provision of these drugs will have to increase to meet the medical needs of the newly infected people and intensify the care given to the ailing early cases (Hunter 2006, pp.40-41).
Reduced Investment in Research Related To Other Health Concerns
The simple logic here is that there will be the need to provide care to people whose lives are in danger of weakening up and dying as opposed to funding research on other health concerns that are not as urgent. It is therefore not likely to come as a surprise if funds are diverted from research programs associated with other health concerns such as weight loss to the care of those who are already infected with HIV/AIDS. In the long run, the strain on the healthcare system will be inescapable. What measures can be taken to reduce the cost of dealing with people living with HIV/AIDS? A wellness program can go a long way in reducing the cost of caring for AIDS patients. How can this work?
A Wellness Program for HIV/AIDS Patients
Opportunistic health issues in AIDS/HIV patients thrive when the patients are not involved in adequate exercise. A wellness program that will provide such patients with the chance to do exercise from time to time will assist in fortifying their bodies and therefore warding off opportunistic infections(Hunter 2006, pp.78-79). Once these opportunistic health concerns are kept away from these patients, the cost of taking care of them will be reduced. A well organized effort to make these patients aware of the fact that exercise is good for their health will be the only way to go about this. The provision of wellness centers where they can engage themselves in various forms of exercise will also come in handy. It is also important to note that for a wellness program to completely handle the needs of HIV/AIDS patients, the emotional segment of their needs must be met too. Most HIV/AIDS patients experience extreme emotions due to the nature of the disease, in that, it is not curable. It is for this reason that they need counseling to show them appreciation, love and equip them with the tools for dealing with stigmatization which is still being experienced from time to time. How can HIV/AIDS patients be reached for marketing purposes?
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The Marketing Needs of HIV/AIDS patients
The extremely weak patients will have to be accessed by the people who want to market any product or service to them. The patients with strength will most likely look for the services on their own, but again the marketing personnel should attempt reaching out to them.
Dealing With the Challenges of HIV/AIDS
It is well known that this is a disease without a cure. Therefore the best way to deal with it is to prevent infection. Individuals should avoid risky sexual behavior as well as careless handling of instruments such as needles used by infected individuals (Hunter 2006, pp.67-68). Taking good care of the infected will go also help as it will give them a positive view of life; a scenario that will make them lead healthy lives, thus reducing the cost of care.
HIV/AIDS is a problem in the United States. With 55,000 new infections each year, healthcare costs will keep on rising. Avoiding risky behavior as a way of avoiding new infections and taking good care of those already infected will help. For a disease without a cure, this is all there is.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2009), HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report 2007. (19). New York: CDC Publishing.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Press Release. (2010, July 19th). New CDC Analysis Reveals Strong Link between Poverty and HIV Infection. Web.
Hunter, S., (2006). AIDS in America (1st ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
UNAIDS/WHO FACT SHEET. North America And Western And Central Europe Latest Epidemiological Data. Web.