Bringing down HIV infection rates in SA

GREAT strides have been made in the fight against HIV/Aids infection in the past twenty years to reduce the number of people dying of HIV/Aids related illnesses.

Helping to ensure the government stays on track, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has been on the forefront in the fight against HIV infection. The TAC has won many cases in court to force the government to provide ARVs to people living with HIV in the country.

Spokesperson for the TAC Sibongile Tshabalala said: “TAC is an advocacy organisation that fought for the treatment and continues to in the years after ARVs were provided to patients living with HIV. TAC monitors the HIV response through its campaigns.

“The country has not won the fight against HIV. Why? because out of over eight million people who are living with HIV, only 50% are accessing ARVs in the country. We are experiencing more young people infected with HIV and the country still faces HIV-related deaths.”

In the past, it was recommended that HIV patients should start ARV treatment when their CD4 count was below a certain amount, however, this is no longer the case.

Tshabalala said: “We have moved from the era where people living with HIV were only starting ARVs when their CD 4 was 200 or below. Minister Motsoaledi in 2016 introduced the test and treat policy in South Africa, whereby a patient will be tested today and be started on treatment as soon as their blood results are back.”

According to the research, a person with undetectable viral load has an almost zero chance of infecting another person.

Tshabalala added: “I would not say TAC is winning the fight against HIV, but the fight against HIV is the fight that everyone in the has to be involved in, hence we call for every government department and every community member in the country to be involved in the fight against HIV.

“For now we are not winning because we are still facing stock issues of ARVs and patients are still turned away without medication. Instead, the broken health system is contributing in losing the fight against HIV,” he said.

Tshabalala added that the TAC has made great strides as a result of their activism. But the advocacy group now faces a new form of denialism.

“Nearly 300 people still die a day of Aids related illnesses, particularly TB, but we refuse to see this as a national crisis.

“Today it is not politically inspired Aids denialism that kills people, we defeated that, it is denial of a failing health system and the lack of political will to act urgently to fix it.”

TAC was founded on International Human Rights Day, December 10, 1998 to campaign for access to Aids treatment. The organisation celebrated its 20th anniversary on December 10.

It has gained international regard as one of the most important civil society organisations campaigning for Aids treatment in the developing world.

President Cyril Ramaphosa paid tribute to the TAC for its activism for access to medicines and human rights.

Ramaphosa said the TAC’s activism has saved lives and inspired action, not only in South Africa but also in other parts of the world.

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