Saturday, February 27, 2010

Substance Abuse and HIV/AIDS

The Media and Training Centre for Health that is attached to the Prince Albert Advice Office is concerned about the high incidence of substance abuse, particularly alcohol, in Prince Albert.

The Friend (TF) spoke to field worker Ferdi Willemse (FW) about the problem.

TF: What is substance abuse?

FW: Basically the use of any substance that changes the mental state of a person, creating disorientation, mood swings, confused thinking, memory lapses, and lack of concentration and/or time distortion.

It affects the thoughts and feelings of a person, such as low self-esteem, suspicion, decreased responsibility, guilt or anger.

It also changes a person’s physical state and leads to such things as lack of co-ordination, altered speech, changed activity levels, altered sleeping and eating patterns, neglected hygiene and or headaches. A very common example is alcohol.

TF: Surely that can damage the system in the long run?
FW: Yes, if used repeatedly for the psychological and or physical effect, for example to experience euphoria, escape from reality, exert control and/or alleviate discomfort. The primary effects of drugs are on the central nervous system.

Just consider that in South Africa we drink 5 billion litres of alcohol every year. That amounts to120 litres per person. Alarmingly not only adults consumed this amount. A recent study of grade 8 - grade 11 students in schools in the Western Cape shows that in a two-week period, half the students had consumed alcohol, 42% had smoked cigarettes, and 16% had smoked dagga. In all, between 30% and 50% of all school children have experimented with drugs by the time they reach matric.

TF: Surely that is only in the main centres?

FW: No. This kind of consumption has an impact on all South Africans. We in Prince Albert experience major problems with substance abuse, especially alcohol. Just think: If you buy one beer a day for 7 days you end up drinking R70 weekly. That adds up to about R3600 a year for one person. We experience a lot of youngsters who are exposed to alcohol and experiment with it.

TF: How does that affect the community as a whole?

FW: Well, spending hard-earned money on non-essential products such as alcohol not only impoverishes the community, it also increases the risk of risky sexual behaviour. That dramatically encourages the spread of HIV/ AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. beg every organization and all role players to act against alcohol abuse and the community must be part of the prevention of any substance abuse.

It is very important that adults should lead by example and talk to their children to stop alcohol abuse and early experimental sex. If we don’t act it will lead to HIV/AIDS infection and more socio- economic and health problems.

No comments: