News / Africa

    S. Africa, Zimbabwe Set Aggressive Goals in HIV/AIDS Fight

    An AIDS patient is fed by a volunteer worker of the Sakhi-Sizwe AIDS care initiative in Orange Farm township, south of Johannesburg (file photo)
    An AIDS patient is fed by a volunteer worker of the Sakhi-Sizwe AIDS care initiative in Orange Farm township, south of Johannesburg (file photo)
    Peta Thornycroft

    The United Nations says the world is finally ready to achieve the goal of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths. There are various challenges and responses to that vision in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

    What's changed

    In the past few years, South Africa has come to grips with the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The government is now reporting that new infections in pregnant women have stabilized.  

    Even so, the country remains plagued by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

    The South African government, non-governmental organizations and the private sector currently treat about one million people infected with HIV or AIDS. Official statistics say another 5 million are infected among the country’s 50 million people.

    Big business in the country is now making significant contributions in the fight against the disease. Some private sector employers say testing and treating those infected, and not discriminating against them makes financial sense.

    Anglo America, one of South Africa’s largest and oldest mining companies, employs 70,000 fulltime staff.  The company says its 11-year effort to provide free care and treatment to 12,000 HIV positive employees has paid off.

    “To build trust with our employees, to get rid of discrimination and to save lives,” said Chief medical officer Brian Brink, explaining why it is morally correct to provide full care and treatment for infected workers.

    He said that Anglo American employees on anti-retroviral drugs were able to lead near-normal lives and knew they would not suffer discrimination in the workplace.

    Slow progress

    In Zimbabwe the picture is different. HIV/AIDS was first diagnosed in the country 25 years ago and the government of President Robert Mugabe initially ignored it. Instead, donors and independent journalists, and a few well-known personalities who were infected, spread the word about the disease and how to avoid infection.

    Eventually the government began to take the disease seriously. In 2007, the U.S. Agency for International Development concluded a countrywide testing project and found that Zimbabweans, more so than others in the high-infection countries, had begun to change their behavior, resulting in the rate of new infections to drop significantly.

    Before Zimbabwe's inclusive government came to power in 2009, Mugabe's financial policies created hyperinflation, ripping the economy apart and causing AIDS-related deaths to spiral as money to buy anti-retrovirals [ARVs] became scarce.

    But these days, new infections have been cut in half since the early days of the pandemic. Most urban Zimbabweans are well informed about the disease and it is more openly discussed.

    Jennifer Masaisai took her children to a Harare hospital this week for their annual health checks.

    “Overall at government level, I would applaud them. They are doing well, like the approach they have used toward the mother-to-child transmission. There has been massive education and there’s a lot of campaigning that has been done to try to minimize at all levels any new infections among newly-born babies,” said Masaisai.

    Challenges remain

    Soloman Banda was less complimentary about the government's management of HIV/AIDS.

    “Most people who have already started ARVs treatment are actually complaining that they are not getting treatment on time. Sometimes they are defaulting and that is very dangerous,” said Banda.

    Orlando Manuwere, communications officer for the National AIDS Council, is optimistic that in spite of declining international donor support, Zimbabwe's government may be able to fund more ARVs via the AIDS tax to which all taxpayers contribute.

    “It’s good news that the economy is projected to grow by around 9.4 percent, so obviously that is going to have a ripple effect on what goes toward health, what goes towards the AIDS levy,” said Manuwere.

    Medical scientists say 30 years after the world became aware of this new virus, and despite significant advances in treatment and prevention, the goal of 2011 World AIDS day is still a long way off, particularly in southern Africa.

    Photo Gallery: World AIDS Day

    You May Like

    Water Scarcity Could Push Conflict, Migration by 2050

    Warning comes in a new report from the World Bank titled "High and Dry: Climate Change, Water and the Economy"

    What Your First Name Says About Who You Support for President

    Bobby, Betty and Curtis tend to support Donald Trump while people named Juan, Liz or Mohammad are more likely to lean toward Hillary Clinton

    South Pole Diary: In Round-the-clock Darkness, Radiant Moon Shines Like the Sun

    You hear more and see more when the moon first comes out; it’s your senses in overdrive, tuning into a new world.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora