Social Spread of HIV

Contributed by Guest Blogger: T. McKinnon ’14

In the mid-1980’s, businesspeople were crossing the Tanzania/Uganda border, and caught a disease. This disease spread through all of Tanzania after 2 years, and this is the birth of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The question that was being asked in this research is how rampant HIV is in two differing economic classes, the “rich” and the “poor,” and in which is it more prevalent. The model created by studying the transmission of this disease through differing socio-economic classes is to see the impact HIV/AIDS has on one economic class versus another, and whether transmission is easier, harder, faster, etc. in different social classes.
The experiment conducted worked like this: a total population of individual is accounted for, divided into susceptibles, infectives (infectious), pre-AIDS and AIDS patients. These people are then divided into pre-AIDS hospitalized patients and AIDS patients seeking no hospitalization, because this is common in lower economic classes. From then, the spread and rate of infection of HIV and the spread of AIDS is measured among these separate groups, whether it is initial infection or development into full blown AIDS.
Through extensive experimentation, HIV/AIDS was found to be more prevalent among wealthier populations, but it spreads faster among the lower classes. I find it very interesting that this disease is not more prevalent and spreads faster in the lower classes. In the upper class, people can more readily afford the treatments and medications than people living in lower classes with less money.
The researchers acknowledged that this experiment was by no means exhaustive. I would like this experiment to expand to how race and sexuality interact with social class in the spread and prevalence of HIV/AIDS or if race has anything to do with it, both separately and together. I also would like to know how level of sexual activity among social class propagates HIV spread, and if the members of the upper class were more or less sexually active, or participated in more unsafe sexual practices than those of the lower class, or if it was the other way around.


6 thoughts on “Social Spread of HIV”

  1. This study is so intriguing, since HIV/AIDS is a virus that affects so many people throughout the world. The fact that the virus is more prevalent in wealthier classes came as a surprise to me as well, considering that they can afford the necessary treatments, as well as protection to use during sexual activity. The fact that the disease spread faster in poorer populations makes perfect sense. People living in these conditions are probably less cautious about their sexual activity, along with their needle use. Therefore, the disease can rapidly spread throughout a large group of people.

  2. This was really quite interesting to read. Like Sarah and Dip said, when thinking of the population in which HIV is more common, I would usually first think of the lower class populations. However, I can understand how the virus may be more common in the wealthier class. One may find the people of the wealthier class going out and “partying” more than the lower class for they are able to afford the steep prices associated with partying. More often than not, the “partiers” will conduct in some sort of sexual activity because they can and because they think that they are using their means of protection correctly when they in face, may not be. And once more, like Sarah said, some from the upper class could have the perspective that they are unlikely to contract HIV or any sort of STD and don’t bother to be tested. Then, if they do HIV they are spreading quicker and unknowingly.

  3. Thanks for the clarification on that, Mr. Esteban. Nonetheless, this study is an amusing find, and seeing that this is simply a model, it would be just as interesting if scientists could actually compare these findings and predictions to reality, but that would pose a lot of difficulties in terms of labeling subjects as “rich” and “poor,” “susceptibles,” “infectives,” etc. You also ask similar questions that were posed in my mind as well: how does this study correlate to sexual activity? with AIDS as somewhat of a social stigma, does it have any correlations to race? even sexual orientation?

  4. An important point here, as the writer mentioned, is that this is a model, that is, a mathematical simulation. So any conclusions from this must be considered predictions that would need to be verified by either looking at patterns in a real population or some kind of experiment. The value of these kinds of models is that sometimes there is a surprising result that allows us to see patterns that we did not expect.

  5. This is amazing! Just as Sarah says above, while reading this post I simply assumed that the conclusion would be that HIV/AIDS was found to be more prevalent among poorer populations. On the contrary, the actual conclusion (which is the opposite of what I assumed) was very surprising. It only makes sense that poorer populations that may have access to less or no contraceptives are more susceptible to aids. Therefore, I agree with the writer of the post in that we need to perhaps heavily consider that this experiment was by no means exhaustive. Maybe the research was flawed. However, this may also be a large generalization on our parts. Maybe we just need to be open to the fact that wealth is not factor in the spread of something like HIV. Then again, may be it is!

  6. I thought this topic was very interesting. When I think of who HIV most often affects, I automatically think of people from lower classes, and it would least affect those of wealthier classes since they are probably more educated about the spread of the disease. It’s fascinating that it is in fact far more common among the upper class. Perhaps wealthier people think that it is very unlikely for them to get this virus and choose not to get tested earlier on before the HIV virus progresses into AIDS. Does the fact that those of lower classes do not get medical attention (due to financial issue) as readily as wealthier people play a role? I also think it would be interesting to see how race as well as age plays a role in the prevalence of HIV. Also, where was this population of people taken?

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