HIV/Aids fight shows momentum

Civil society representative Sindi Mguye; Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi; executive director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe; MEC of Health Nomafrench Mbombo; UNAIDS special advocate, Guarraisha Abdool Karim; and ward councillor Anele Gabuza at the launch.

With just more than a week before International Aids Day, on Friday December 1, United Nations Aids(UNAIDS) have released a new HIV global report which revealed that access to HIV/Aids treatment had risen significantly.

UNAIDS is the joint United Nations programme on HIV/Aids.

Under the theme My Health, My Right, the report highlights the marginalisation of people affected by HIV/Aids and the challenges they face in accessing health and social services.

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Task force (SWEAT), Grandmothers Against Poverty and Aids (GAPA) and various community stakeholders gathered at Michael Mapongwana Community Health Centre on Monday November 20, to receive the report.

Participants voiced their frustration at poor service delivery at public health facilities.

From 685 000 people globally who received HIV/Aids treatment in 2000, the report revealed that nearly 21 million people are now on HIV treatment.

UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe said most people did not know that only 90 people in South Africa were on treatment in 2000.

He said currently South Africa has the biggest life-saving treatment programme in the world, with more than four million people on treatment.

He said the rise in the number of people on treatment kept more HIV positive people alive and well. “Treatment access has been scaled up for pregnant women living with HIV and new HIV infections among children have rapidly reduced,” he said.

TAC representative Neliswa Nkwali complained about poor service rendered at public health care facilities.

She accused the Department of Health of failing to render quality healthcare to township people and demanded to know what plans the government has to better the service.

Minister Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said the first person in Khayelitsha started HIV treatment in 2001.

He said today there are almost 42 000 people on treatment in the area.

He said the success of the Khayelitsha treatment microcosm showed the massive success of South Africa’s HIV programme.

Dr Motsoaledi said the country has the highest prevalence of HIV and Aids infection in the world with 7.1 million people infected by the virus.

However, he said the country also has the biggest treatment programme in the world, with 4.2 million people on treatment.

He said the department needed to put 2.2 million more people on treatment by 2020, thus bringing the number to 6.1 million.

He said if there were no programmes globally to fight tuberculosis (TB), the world would never win the battle against HIV and Aids.

He said 75 representatives from across the world met in Moscow last week to map the way forward in curbing the escalating scourge of TB.

Dr Motsoaledi urged people to assist government in the fight against the pandemic.

“We need to do everything in our power to prevent the disease,” he said.

“While we are making strides on treatment, we cannot treat ourselves out of this epidemic. We also need to make sure that we prevent the disease, that is why the UN has a new programme called Collision in Prevention that we need to put every programme on prevention like male circumcision.”

But Dr Motsoaledi said now the aim was to ensure that the 17.1 million people in need of treatment, including 91 9000 children, can access the medicines and to put HIV prevention back at the top of public health programming, particularly in the countries where HIV infection was rife.

He noted that 3.9 million people were treated at public healthcare facilities for HIV and only about 200 000 people were treated at private hospitals.