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The
scale and severity of the HIV/AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus infection/
acquired immune deficiency syndrome) epidemic has continued to exceed all
expectations since when it was first identified by researchers in 1983 (Piot et
al., 2001). Having claimed over 35 million lives, HIV continues to be an
important global health issue, with 1 million HIV-related global deaths in 2016
alone (WHO, 2018). Within the global program on HIV/AIDS proposed in 1991, the
World Health Organisation estimated that by 2000, 40 million individuals will
be infected with HIV (Piot et al., 2001). However, this was a huge miscalculation.  The most infected regions where the epidemic
is at its worst is sub-Saharan Africa, which is also responsible for three
quarters of the global HIV/AIDS death toll. It was estimated that within this
specific area, 25.3 million individuals were living with HIV at the end of 2000
(Piot et al., 2001). The economic, social, and demographic impacts of the
HIV/AIDS spread was also much greater than first predicted, however due to the
rapid spread of the infection over the past 30 years, researchers have stated
that this impact currently being experience d is only a fraction of what is yet
to come (Piot et al., 2001). Despite the progress in medication for treatment,
HIV/AIDS still threatens human development as one of the most serious crises.
Although HIV/AIDS prevalence still remains relatively low in Westernised
countries in comparison to non-Westernised countries, it was estimated that
45,000 of the North American population and 30,000 of the Western Europe
populated became infected in the course of 2000 (Piot et al., 2001). Within
these populations the epidemic has changed. The slow increase in prevalence
over the past two decades is also in correlation with an increase in survival
rates. Where it is available to patients, antiretroviral therapy (ART) remains the
preferred treatment which has proven to have a positive effect on disease
mortality and progression (Piot et al., 2001, WHO, 2018). However, the
favourable results of therapy and advantages of successful prevention efforts
are less prominent in ethnic minority and poorer populations within high income
countries. In comparison to the more wealthy areas, the prevalence is of
HIV/AIDS transmission is increasing more promptly. Unavoidably the HIV/AIDS
epidemic is moving and targeting the most vulnerable populations and in the
most developed populations prevention efforts have stalled (Piot et al., 2001).
However an example which has defied this trend is Australia, which showed
successful records of preventing the HIV/AIDS with specific focus on drug
users. The country achieved this by identifying that drug users have the
potential to be a vulnerable population of the disease, therefore acting before
there was a known incidence (Piot et al., 2001).

            Despite the continuing involvement
of governments and organisations, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is still a global
issue. Various factors require further research to understand and explain why
the epidemic continues to grow, as influences are currently being overlooked. One
of the HIV/AIDS epidemic major driving forces is poverty, therefore increased
focus on organisations which introduce policies in the form structural
adjustment plans is required, as this is an area which has been highlighted as
an issue. The purpose of this essay is to analyse a range of literature,
statistics, theories, and information gathered by researchers and institutions to
further the understanding of why the HIV/AIDS epidemic is still considered to
be of global significance. By doing so, vulnerable populations will be
identified and the strengths and weaknesses of current policies will be
discussed. Moreover, this piece of work will identify that is an obvious
connection between global institutions, theoretical frameworks and HIV/AIDS
which requires acknowledgment. Throughout the essay, various influences which are
believed to either negatively contribute to the epidemic or positively aid the
reduction of disease prevalence, are investigated whilst adopting neoliberalist
or neo-colonial perspective.

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            Piot et al., (2001) analysed and
discussed the society-wide impacts of HIV/AIDS. The full impact of HIV/AIDS on
the current and forthcoming capacities of societies to maintain safety of human
life is only slightly conveyed whilst considering the epidemiological impacts of
the disease. Piot et al., (2001) stated that in various reported cases, the
transmission of HIV/AIDS is more extensive in the better educated and wealthier
of populations, and primarily affecting young adults, therefore the impacts
branch through all economic and social divisions. Whether measured in terms of
economic growth or life expectancy, HIV/AIDS has continuous impacts on
development at the macro-level. HIV/AIDS is drastically reducing life
expectancy, especially in low income countries, the worst affected areas of
HIV/AIDS (Harries et al., 2016, Piot et al., 2001). In the 1950s, the life
expectancy in southern Africa was 44 years, however this rose to 59 years by
the 1980s (Piot et al., 2001). Up to the year 2000, it was reported that 20
million people died worldwide from HIV/AIDS and by the end of 2016 the death
rate rose to 35 million (Piot et al., 2001, WHO, 2018). Since the start of the
epidemic over 70 million individuals have reported to have been infected with
HIV/AIDS (WHO, 2018). The death rate caused by HIV/AIDS will continue to
increase due to the infections and transmissions that have already occurred,
adding to the distinctiveness of the demographic impact of the disease. In
addition to this, due to HIV/AIDS prevalence being most apparent among the
younger population and with a progression in medical research, treatment, and
prevention programs, it is predicted that in the future the standard population
pyramid will reverse, with older adults being the infected population (Piot et
al., 2001).

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