Case study of a global disease

AIDS- location

AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is caused by the HIV virus which, over time, wears down the immune system. This lack of natural resistance makes an infected person extremely susceptible to picking up viruses which, in most cases, eventually leads to death.

Every country in the world has, or has had, someone living with AIDS. However, the distribution of cases around the world is very uneven, with over 70 per cent in Africa. Even then the vast majority of the cases found in Africa are located south of the equator with most of these in South Africa itself.

Percentage of global population with AIDSPercentage of global population with AIDS


Look at the map above.

Describe, in detail, the global distribution of AIDS.

  • The distribution of AIDS is very uneven throughout the world. The highest percentage of people with the disease is located in African countries.
  • There are between 0.1-0.5 per cent of people in the UK living with AIDS.
  • Some countries eg China have less than 0.1 per cent of its population with the disease.
  • Other countries eg South Africa have between 15-34 per cent of its population with AIDS.
  • Russia has 1-5 per cent of its population with the disease.
  • The USA has between 0.5-1.0 per cent of people with AIDS.

The spread of AIDS in Africa

HIV/AIDS is usually passed on through contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person. The main ways people contract HIV/AIDS are:

  • Drug users sharing dirty needles.
  • Having unprotected sex with an infected person.
  • Babies drinking the breast milk of an infected woman.
  • Infected blood transfusions.
  • Infection can be passed on from mother to foetus during pregnancy.
  • Lack of preventative care, advice or medication.
  • Lack of education on how the disease is transmitted.

Effects of AIDS

In a developed country AIDS is often found within specific groups such as intravenous drug users. News of someone contracting the virus can have a detrimental emotional impact on relatives and families, as well as on the individual.

There is a great cost involved in treating the disease, eg with antiretroviral drugs, and in research costs.

In a developing country the cost of medicine to control the disease means that most people go without treatment. AIDS is a debilitating disease which means that eventually those infected will not be able to work, lowering the productivity and potential wealth of a country.

Development may be hindered which leads to fewer jobs and less wealth in a country. The death rate will increase and life expectancy decreases.

In countries like South Africa or Uganda where AIDS is endemic, children may be left without parents and brought up by their grandparents. Entire middle-aged populations may be missing from societies. There may also be a loss of tourist revenue if it becomes known that there are specific problems with disease in the area.