News / Africa

UN Hails Drop in AIDS-Related Deaths in Africa

Nurses work in the pharmacy at the general hospital in Man, western Ivory Coast, July 4, 2013.
Nurses work in the pharmacy at the general hospital in Man, western Ivory Coast, July 4, 2013.
Anita Powell
The United Nations’ AIDS agency is hailing what officials describe as significant progress in the fight against the epidemic in eastern and southern Africa. The report says AIDS-related deaths have declined dramatically and that the number of new infections has decreased - a direct result of more available treatment. But, they warned, challenges remain.  

Top health and aid officials praised the gains in the fight against AIDS in southern and eastern Africa - among them, a nearly 40 percent drop in AIDS-related deaths since 2005, and a 50 percent drop in new infections among children since 2001.

The cause, they said was simple: The number of people receiving anti-retroviral treatment has increased tenfold, from 625,000 in 2005 to 6.3 million in 2012.



But this disease, said Ethiopia’s health minister, is not about numbers. Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu said he is still haunted by some of the patients he met when he was in practice a decade ago. At the time, he said, Ethiopian hospitals were full of suffering AIDS patients. The disease was taboo, he said, and the media portrayed it “as a horror.”

He was one of the first doctors to begin treating AIDS patients in Ethiopia. At the time, treatment was expensive and complicated.

“When we started the program, over a period of one year we only managed to put 5,000 patients on ART," he said. "They had to provide some kind of proof that they will continue to receive the treatment and pay for it. I still remember vividly a mother of six who came to my clinic to seek treatment. She was jobless, her husband died of HIV, and two of her daughters were working for the government. And she had to bring her two daughters to, you know, assure us that they will pay for her treatment.”

Dr. Kesetebirhan did not say what happened to the patient.  But he said that his government is trying to make her story a rarity by implementing aggressive health-care measures, including a veritable army of specially trained health workers and free access to AIDS drugs.

It appears to have worked: Ethiopia is among seven African nations where the number of AIDS-related deaths has fallen more than 50 percent since 2005. It is also one of seven countries where the rate of new infections has halved.

The country with the world’s heaviest AIDS burden, South Africa, has also made gains. UNAIDS estimates that some 5.6 million South Africans are infected with HIV.

South African Health Minister Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi said he was optimistic, especially since the health ministry under his tenure has shifted to an evidence-based, scientific approach to AIDS.

Motsoaledi’s predecessor, who served for nearly a decade, drew international criticism for rejecting the value of AIDS drugs and touting herbal treatments for AIDS such as garlic and beetroot.

“It’s quite encouraging to realize that the tide is turning," he said. "In South Africa, I wouldn’t have said so just less than three years ago. Minister Admasu is talking about 10 years in Ethiopia.  I’m sure you are aware we have had our own 10 years, which I don’t want to talk about. But at the moment, there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel.”

Motsoaledi noted great decreases in the rate of mother-to-child transmission and said more South Africans are getting tested than ever before.  He also said the government would next year start vaccinating all 9-10-year-old girls against Human Papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer and also increases the likelihood of HIV infection.

But, he said, his nation’s health system is struggling to accommodate its various burdens, and needs to come up with a novel solution.

“When you add the number of people who need treatment from HIV/AIDS, those who need treatment from TB and the non-communicable diseases, our health facilities are going to be extremely overstretched," said Motsoaledi.

"So that tells us that together with all the development partners, we need to start planning and innovate new methods," he added. "So the innovation we are coming up with in South Africa which is far advanced, we are working on an innovation where these people who are very stable, on ARV treatment, on TB, even [non- communicable diseases], who do not need to see a doctor or a nurse should no longer report to health facilities but can receive their treatment in many other localities: community pharmacists, chain stores around our country, private doctors nearer to them. They must just wake up and go to the nearest facility.”

Officials also noted their remaining concerns. For example, HIV prevalence among young women was 4.5 percent in 2011 - more than twice the rate among young men. And the officials acknowledged that convincing young people to take precautions against HIV remains a major challenge.

You May Like

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

Iraqi Kurdish Leader: Protect Syrian City

Islamic State fighters are besieging Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, after seizing at least 21 surrounding villages in a major assault against city on Syria's northern border with Turkey More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid