Aids toll: ‘hunger to blame’

2009-12-02 00:00

POVERTY and practices like having “sugar daddies” are hampering the fight against HIV and Aids.

Speaking at and event to mark World Aids Day at Dannhauser in the Amajuba district yesterday, the MEC for Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dlomo, said a very small number of pregnant women receive anti-retroviral therapy to minimise transmission of HIV to their infants.

He said this is because of a lack of assessment for eligibility to receive these drugs.

The event was attended by amakhosi, councillors and community structures, who were urged to work with government in the fight against HIV and social ills in general.

“The availability and uptake of HIV testing and counselling services in the province continues to increase. However, behavioural tendencies such as having ‘sugar daddies’ and ‘sugar mamas’ are reversing the gains in the fight against HIV and Aids,” said Dlomo.

He revealed that the province has more than 300 000 people who are currently enrolled in the ARV rollout programme.

“Late initiation of anti-retroviral therapy is the major cause of the high mortality rates observed in the first year after adults and children initiate treatment. It is, therefore, imperative that people check their status and start ARVs in time,” he said.

Dannhauser Mayor Bongekile Shabalala welcomed the early provision of ARVs announced by President Jacob Zuma yesterday, but said people continue to die because they don’t have food.

The sick travel long distances to clinics and hospitals for medication. Sometimes they would find none at the health care facilities.

“It’s not happening here alone. Everywhere else we get these problems. The [biggest] challenge people face here is poverty. Although they take ARVs, they still die because they take them on empty stomachs,” Shabalala said, adding that the Social Development Department has been approached for food parcel relief.

“Our home-based care workers have their hands full because the food is not enough, yet the sick need treatment. “We need to assist government by contributing the little we have to win the fight against Aids,” she said.

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