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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid