HIV-Aids Epidemics: A failure of social structures?

ACCORDING to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-Aids and ART Registry of the Philippines (Harp), a specialized arm of the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau explained that as of March, a total of 736 cases of HIV have been reported with 658 of which asymptomatic (not manifesting any symptom), 80 of which are full-blown Aids, 712 of which were males while 24 were females, and the median age was 24.

Similarly, it reported that 520 cases have been started on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), which are medications that slow the progress of HIV.

At this point, I would rather wish to view this social pathology at the societal level rather on the individualistic practices, let’s say unprotected sex, sharing of needles or men having sex with men (MSM), of the infected individuals in the statistics.

I am usually reminded by the reading or essay of C. Wright Mills’ Sociological Imagination, which provides a macro-sociological perspective in the analysis and understanding of social problems like epidemics.

I was introduced to the thoughts of Mills while I was studying Master of Arts in Sociology from Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan) in 2011 under the class of Dr. Imelda Pagtolun-an, a US-Educated sociologist in the courses, “History of Sociological Thoughts” and “Sociological Theories”.

According to Mills, we need to understand problems like HIV-Aids epidemics in a sociological rather than seeing it as a personal trouble: limiting one’s perspectives exclusively to the behavioral aspect of the mode of transmission of the said communicable disease, in this instance.

Although he did not exactly claimed HIV-Aids per se but rather it can be deduced as a social problem from his propositions since HIV-Aids is rapidly plaguing our society like a social sickness that eats our population in geometric proportions.

And having these thoughts, I have chosen to share how I wish to view this HIV-Aids epidemics in a structural-functional perspective in seeing the society in totality of its parts.

Let me begin with the anatomy of society: it is composed of different parts like the human body.

In this effect, the society is composed of such parts as: economics, healthcare, polity, school, religion, and family. Social parts or social institutions, these structures are sometimes referred to.

Like the human body which attempts to maintain balance in its internal environment (homeostasis), society also does the same by maintaining social equilibrium among its proponents.

When the human body is dysfunctional or at least threatened by disease, let us say there is aberration in the kidneys, other organ systems are affected like the nervous system which generates pain or triggers fever for example.

The same holds true for the social units of the society. When healthcare, for instance, is affected, all other proponents of the society respond to maintain balance.

In application to HIV-Aids epidemics, let me point out each social unit as I attempt to give a structural-functionalist paradigm in the said situation suggesting a potential failure within and among social systems by some thought-provoking questions.

In the social unit of healthcare, one may question how or what is the medical and allied health communities are doing to address the alarming statistics of HIV-Aids. To date, there are ARTs and related studies that are underway. But how long can we all wait before a vaccine or a pharmacologic treatment be developed?

For the economics side, are these, HIV-Aids epidemics, symptoms of post-industrialization? With the advent of technologies, everything is delivered almost in an instant. From all forms of commodities, foods, transportation, clothing, etc., almost everything seems boundless. And these advances may also allow prostitution readily available in social media. For those who belong to the low income group and those women who are unemployed and are engaging in carnal enterprise, will the division between the upper and lower class only perpetuate their high-risk activities?

How then do religious institution address the collective moral decadence of the post-modern society? Whatever happened to the culturally prescribed values, specifically the symbolic meaning placed on sex and morality that are entrusted to the religious groups’ keeping in passing such wisdom to the next generation?

At schools, will teachers and school administrators keep the pupils blindfolded in the realities of reproductive health education, family planning, HIV-Aids and keep them behind the shadows of ignorance fearing that empowering the pupils with age-appropriate sex education will only promote promiscuity and sexual experiments that not even grounded on sound social science studies?

What about our government and the laws of the land? Are the laws relevant to HIV-Aids such as Republic Acy 8504 (Philippine Aids Control and Prevention Act of 1998) enough to address the epidemics? What are the bills being drafted for the welfare of the HIV-Aids patient? Are local and national executives allocating enough budget to fight HIV-Aids or is it even an issue of lesser priority compared to illegal drugs?

And lastly, for the family, which is supposed to be the most basic social unit of all. Have we totally lost our Filipino concept of a family that ties and bonds are now loosed that single parenthood, broken families, concubinage or philandering spouses have become an acceptable reality that is even glorified in local soap operas? Will topics regarding sex and preventive measures against HIV-Aids remain taboo? Will parents continue to dismiss sexual related questions and instead talk about “birds” and “flowers” or the “stork” indirectly leading them to harm’s way? Or will parents leave this issue to the peers of their children?

If we examine closely these interrogative statements, it may give us an overview of how all social units or structures of the society are affected.

It then brings us to most basic question: Is HIV/Aids epidemics a failure of the social structures?

*****

The writer is a medical professional and has been writing as a health columnist of this paper since 2008. He is an alumnus of Xavier University Ateneo de Cagayan from Elementary to Graduate School. Currently he is a faculty member of the Medical Education Unit for the Doctor of Medicine Program of Southwestern University Phinma, where he is likewise finishing his Master of Public Health.
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