South Africa's response to World AIDS Day

With December 1st declared as World AIDS Day, there's a focus on how far we have come since the condition was first clinically discovered in the US in 1981. The first ever World AIDS Day was commemorated in 1988 and there are currently an estimated 34 million people with HIV around the world.

Here in South Africa, the day started off with the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) expressing their disdain of the national World AIDS Day commemoration taking place in Welkom in the Free State. TAC Board Member Mark Haywood said on 702's John Robbie Show:

What TAC is questioning is whether it is a good use of resources and of the day to spend probably about R5 million, shipping in dignitaries and putting up tents in far-flung parts of the Free State which has a terrible crisis of its own health services...take down the tents tonight and tomorrow you've got things as bad as it was yesterday. World AIDS Day events must be honoured, but must be done in a way that saves money and saves lives.

Did you know that between 10-40% of the work force in South Africa is HIV+? These and other facts around HIV and AIDS in the work place - add to this, the case of domestic helpers looking after your children - were unpacked by Cape Talk's Kieno Kammies and the Managing Director of EQuity Works, Marleen Potgieter, who added:

I think companies really do try hard and I am yet to find a policy that in black in white says 'we are bigots, racists and we don't like gay people'. It is what people do to each other in the work place that is problematic. I've discovered as well that it's far more difficult to contract HIV in the work place - you really have to go out of your way to try.

To what extent are caretakers informed of the unique challenges facing HIV+ people that are under age? On the Redi Tlhabi Show, Nikiwe Bikitsha had guests from non-profit organisation Right to Care, with Dr Marnie Vujovic giving a demographic overview for South Africa:

There are around 460 000 children below the age of 15 who are infected with HIV and a quarter of those are on antiretroviral treatment. In South Africa (reasons for infection) it's mainly Mother-To-Child transmission.

Dr Jackie Dunlop also Right to Care outlines the different stages in medical treatment that children on ARVs go through:

A lot of these parents are living with HIV in this world and they conceive and give birth to HIV+ children. There are a lot of medical and psychosocial implications, along with life-long ARV therapy for the child, as we don't yet have a cure. Initially, it's the job of the parent to administer the ARV therapy for the child twice a day and it's often a foul-tasting syrup that they have to get down the child's throat which is difficult. Later as the child grows, dealing with the complexities of the change in medication requirements, the increase in weight, the increase in dosage until that child is on tablets and finally once they've transitioned into adult care, they use one tablet. So it's quite a journey.


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