World hopes to end Aids by 2030
Despite government’s best efforts, KZN still carries the greatest HIV burden in SA
NELSON Mandela’s grandson Ndaba is expected to pay tribute to the late statesman at the opening of the International Aids Conference, which coincides with on Mandela Day on Monday.
Ndaba’s father, Makgatho Lewanika Mandela, died of an Aids-related illness in January 2005. He was 54 years old.
The former president was, like many around the world, moved by Nkosi Johnson’s speech at the opening of the 13th Aids conference hosted on African soil for the first time in 2000. At the time, Nkosi, 11, was the longest-surviving person who had been born with HIV in South Africa.
Shortly before his death Mandela wrote that Nkosi was an “icon of the struggle for life and he fought fearlessly against this ruthless and parasitic infection”.
In the June 2001 message, Mandela continued: “The regrettable reality of our situation is that Aids severely threatens all that which is beautiful about children and humanity in general. On a frightening scale HIV/Aids is replacing that joy, laughter and happiness with paralysing pain and trauma.”
South Africa has come a long way since that conference 16 years ago – from an age of Aids denialism to having the biggest antiretroviral (ARV) treatment programme in the world.
Today, 3.1 million of the more than 6 million people living with HIV in South Africa are on medication. And that number is expected to increase from September, when ARVs are made available to all HIV- positive people regardless of their CD4 count, as announced by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi in his budget speech in May.
Although such strides have helped reduce the number of Aids-related deaths and mother-to-child transmission, the lack of socio-behavioural changes hinders further progress.
Particularly alarming is the uphill battle against new infections among girls and young women.
A UNAids report last month said 2 500 girls and young women aged between 15 and 24 were infected with HIV in South Africa every week.
This accounts for half the total number of new infections in the same age group in 13 other southern and eastern African countries combined.
Within South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal still carries the greatest HIV burden, with an estimated 1.54 million residents being HIV positive. This is more than the combined total of the number of HIV-positive people in Botswana and Uganda making KZN the “epicentre” of HIV in South Africa. It is fitting then that the biggest gathering of scientists, policy makers, civil society and other delegates from 180 countries returns to the province this week, with the comeback dubbed A Critical Moment in Ending Aids by 2030.
It will be an opportunity to take stock of the progress the world is making in improving access to prevention, treatment and eliminating stigma associated with HIV and Aids.
#Aids2016, is themed Access Equity Rights Now, A call to action to work together to reach people who still lack access to comprehensive treatment, prevention, care and support services. There are 800 volunteers to assist 18 000 delegates. More than 1 000 journalists are in Durban to report on some of the 500 sessions.
Access to the International Convention Centre will be limited to registered delegates, but a global village will be open to all. This will host daily plenary broadcasts, NGO exhibition booths, networking zones as well as performances and art displays.
A pre-conference programme which kicks off today, including the International TB Conference and the Indigenous Conference on HIV and Aids.
The public can join in the call for more funding for HIV/ Aids in the Keep the Promise 2016 march through Durban’s CBD on Monday. This will be followed by a free concert at Kingsmead which will be hosted by US actress Queen Latifah.
South African favourites Mi Casa and Big Nuz will also perform.
Britain’s Prince Harry is shown the negative result of his HIV test, during a visit to highlight the fight against HIV and Aids, at the Burrell Street Sexual Health Centre in Southwark, London on Thursday.