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 British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Multimedia Hit Song Delivers Ebola Message in Liberia

'Ebola in Town' has danceable beat, while also delivering serious message about avoiding infection More

Video New Technology Gives Surgeons Unprecedented Views of Patients’ Bodies

Technology offers real-time, interactive, medical visualization and is multi-dimensional More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid