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

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More