World has 5-year win­dow on Aids

Bol­ster­ing ef­forts now could turn the tide on pan­demic

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - LAURA LOPEZ GON­ZA­LEZ

HE WORLD has five years to in­crease ac­cess to HIV treat­ment and preven­tion to end HIV as a global health threat – and pre­vent the pan­demic from resurg­ing.

“We have bent the tra­jec­tory of the Aids epi­demic,” said the UN Joint United Na­tions Pro­gramme on HIV/Aids (UNAids) in its global re­port re­leased last night. “We have five years to break the epi­demic or we risk the epi­demic springing back even stronger.”

The re­port cau­tions that elim­i­nat­ing HIV as a global health threat does not nec­es­sar­ily mean the world will see no new HIV cases. In­stead, ramp­ing up the HIV re­sponse through im­prov­ing ac­cess to HIV treat­ment and preven­tion for high-risk groups like sex work­ers, men who have sex with men and in­ject­ing drug users would safe­guard re­cent gains in re­duc­ing new in­fec­tions and Aids-re­lated deaths.

South Africa, along­side many of its neigh­bours, re­mains one of the 30 coun­tries re­spon­si­ble for about 90 per­cent of all new HIV in­fec­tions glob­ally.

The new re­port scores South Africa high on pre­vent­ing mother-to-child HIV trans­mis­sion and on con­dom use among sex work­ers. More than 80 per­cent of HIV-pos­i­tive ex­pect­ing women ac­cess an­tiretro­vi­rals (ARVs) to pre­vent their un­born chil­dren from con­tract­ing the virus and a sim­i­lar per­cent­age of sex work­ers re­port us­ing con­doms.

At the South­ern African HIV Clin­i­cians So­ci­ety con­fer­ence, South African Na­tional Aids Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Dr Fa­reed Ab­dul­lah re­vealed that re­cent stud­ies found that up to

T70 per­cent of sex work­ers were liv­ing with HIV.

“For sex work­ers to have con­doms and ARVs con­fis­cated from them when they are ar­rested is a bla­tant vi­o­la­tion of rights, which has a di­rect im­pact on our pro­gram­ming,” said Ab­dul­lah, who launched a na­tional HIV preven­tion and care plan for sex work­ers last year.

South Africa falls short on tar­gets to en­sure that 80 per­cent of adults and chil­dren liv­ing with HIV are on treat­ment.

Glob­ally, HIV-pos­i­tive chil­dren re­main ne­glected and are about 40 per­cent less likely to be on ARVs than adults. Ac­cord­ing to UNAids, Aids-re­lated ill­nesses re­main the largest killer of Africa’s teenagers.

South Africa also gets low marks for con­dom use among men who have sex with men, less than 50 per­cent of whom re­port reg­u­lar con­dom use.

The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) rec­om­mended the use of ARVs in HIV-neg­a­tive men who have sex with men to pre­vent HIV in­fec­tion. While the South­ern African HIV Clin­i­cians So­ci­ety has re­leased guide­lines on the use of the brand name ARV Tru­vada to pre­vent HIV in­fec­tion, the drug is not yet regis­tered for use to pre­vent HIV.

Re­act­ing to the WHO’s an­nounce­ment in July, the Anova Health In­sti­tute’s Dr Kevin Rebe said that would pro­hibit the Depart­ment of Health from rolling out Tru­vada for HIV preven­tion and called for reg­is­tra­tion of the drug to pre­vent HIV in­fec­tion “a mat­ter of ur­gency”.

UNAids says ramp­ing up the HIV re­sponse could also mean a 17-fold re­turn on coun­tries’ in­vest­ments in the fight. – Healthe News

PIC­TURE: AP

TREAT­MENT OP­TION: The Anova Health In­sti­tute has called for the ur­gent reg­is­tra­tion of the drug Tru­vada to pre­vent HIV in­fec­tions.

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