We can’t rest on our HIV laurels

2010-12-04 13:34

Indications from various quarters, including the World Health Organisation, show that the tide against the HIV/Aids pandemic is turning – and for the better.
A recent report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids indicates that global infections have fallen by nearly 20% in the past decade.

Also heartwarming is the revelation that Aids-related deaths are down by nearly 20% in the past five years and that the epidemic is slowly being halted.
This is good news, particularly for South Africa, which continues to have the highest prevalence of HIV in the world.

Statistics from various international and local organisations indicate that the country has a staggering 5.7 million people infected with HIV.

But then again, it is encouraging that South Africa now ranks high up there among nations that are making strides in the battle against the virus.

The country boasts one of the biggest antiretroviral (ARV) treatment programmes in the world, with more than 700 000 people ­undergoing state-sponsored treatment.

This is particularly good news, and a sign of serious progress, if one considers that not so long ago the country was the pariah of the world – caught up in the fiasco of beetroot and garlic, and a combination of lack of political will and denialism, that stalled the roll-out of ARVs.

It is equally encouraging that in a country where HIV was once spoken of in hushed tones, we now have myriad public awareness campaigns spearheaded by both the government and civil society.

These positives can only go a long way in helping to eradicate the stigma against people living with HIV.

Eradicating the stigma will also encourage people to answer the call to get tested, which in turn will have a bearing on the HIV ­infection rate and positive living.

President Jacob Zuma made the world sit up and listen when he announced sweeping changes that included getting infected people, pregnant women and children on to the ARV programme regardless of their CD4 count.

This is progress, but we must not rest on our laurels in light of these figures. While it all looks good and promising on paper, it’s important that we double our efforts to fight this monster that continues to claim millions of lives.

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