World hopes to end Aids by 2030

De­spite gov­ern­ment’s best ef­forts, KZN still car­ries the great­est HIV bur­den in SA

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - NOSIPHO MNGOMA

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.

PIC­TURE: AP

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.

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