District is HIV hotspot

2009-10-09 00:00

THE uMgungundlovu district has the highest prevalence (45,7%) of HIV infections among pregnant women countrywide. This means that almost every second pregnant woman in the district is HIV positive, KZN Finance MEC Ina Cronje said at the launch of the uMgungundlovu Aids Council yesterday.

Calling the launch timely and part of a co-ordinated effort across the different tiers of government, Cronje said: “It is high time we face the HIV/Aids monster head on.”

The figures quoted by the MEC are from the 2008 national antenatal HIV and syphilis prevalence survey released by national Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Monday.

Cronje said KZN has consistently recorded the highest prevalence of HIV infection among 15-to-49-year-old pregnant women. The province also has the highest percentage of two-to-18-year-olds who are orphaned. She said this is why there is a concerted drive to bring together not only the government but people from all spheres to tackle Aids as a united front.

Asked how the latest effort will be different from the past, Cronje said previously there were a lot of individual efforts and a lot of workshops.

“I see a clear change in direction and I see far greater commitment. We are all speaking to each other and this is not just about government, there is room for everyone. For years the NGOs have done fantastic work; we need to bring all those efforts together,” the MEC said.

District Mayor Yusuf Bhamjee said Cronje’s presence at the launch of the District Aids Council is an example of the co-ordinated effort.

He said Premier Zweli Mkhize has delegated each of his MECs as chairs of the various districts in the province. Cronje is assigned to the uMgungundlovu district.

Bhamjee said that at municipal level there are local Aids councils (LAC) chaired by the mayors, which combine to form district Aids councils.

Membership of the Aids councils includes business people, traditional leaders, researchers, NGOs, CBOs, people living with Aids and the religious and medical sectors.

Cronje said the district mayors will be part of the provincial Aidscouncil.

District councils will provide much-needed information on the impact of HIV and Aids in the district and local level interventions.

“By 2011 all sectors must be reporting to the provincial Aids council on a quarterly basis. More regular dialogue will build consistent, united efforts in fighting Aids and HIV,” she said.

She said the province has no choice as the pandemic is reversing the progress and development made in KZN. Children are paying the price by not being able to attend school regularly or dropping out. Studies have shown that young people with little or no education may be 2,2 times more likely to contract HIV.

Cronje said most people living with HIV in KZN are in the prime of their working lives.

This means there is increased absenteeism, which squeezes productivity, adds costs, diverts productive resources and depletes skills. As a result government income also declines as tax revenues fall.

Furthermore, governments are forced to increase their spending on health care and in the process often neglect other vital areas because of inadequate funding.

PREMIER Zweli Mkhize is convening a provincial HIV and Aids partnership conference today at the Royal Showgrounds. Over 2 000 delegates from across the province will attend. The aim is to work together in the fight against the pandemic.

 

There is no one reason for the high HIV statistics in Umgungundlovu and the Province, the KZN Health Department said yesterday. Spokesman Chris Maxon said research would need to be conducted to reveal the local factors that drive the epidemic specifically in a district.

Maxon added, however, that with anti-retroviral treatment (ART) people are living longer. There are 32 048 people on ART in uMgungundlovu. He said many mothers are resuming their normal lives and falling pregnant because they are aware that their children may be born free of the virus if they participate in the Prevention of Mother to Child Treatment Programme (PMTCT).

He added that high rates of poverty and low levels of education are also contributing factors.

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