It is, however, also a time for identifying outstanding challenges, such as increasing societal awareness, reducing the infection rate, providing adequate access to healthcare and support services and most importantly ensuring that everyone who requires antiretrovirals (ARVs) has access to treatment with the necessary and indispensable support facilities.
A successful resolution of the challenges associated with HIV and Aids – whether it is prevention, treatment, care, or support – can only be accomplished if all South Africans join hands as partners and remain committed to common goals and promises.
This is especially true in the context of this year’s World Aids Day theme – “Stop Aids. Keep the Promise” with the added tagline “Accountability”.
According to Marcel van Soest, Executive Director of the World Aids Campaign, accountability is an essential building block of Aids prevention in the sense that it enables partners in the fight against Aids to establish “why programmes that work have not been implemented in the light of Universal Access and country target setting”.
Accountability in this context furthermore ensures that the “world is informed and aware and that all leaders know that the public and civil society are watching” and by implication playing a role in the implementation of Aids prevention and treatment programmes.
To ensure that the rollout of ARVs, the provision of care and support to those infected by HIV and those who have developed Aids-defining illness are adequately dealt with and everyone is held accountable, the South African government recently reinvigorated the South African National Aids Council (SANAC), chaired by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
This collaborative body incorporates the majority of stakeholders that are active in the arena of HIV and Aids prevention in the country. Its success in encouraging all sectors of society, including individuals, to take ownership of Aids prevention in the country relies heavily on leadership at every level of society as well as the mobilisation and cooperation in all sectors of society.
Recent meetings of SANAC reaffirmed the mutual benefit that could be derived from cooperation and commitment and provided a unique opportunity for all participants and partners to monitor progress made, and to make the necessary suggestions required to increase the country’s responsiveness to the Aids pandemic.
Committed partners in the fight against Aids in the country include Government, labour and business; health workers and scientists; communities and schools; NGOs, faith and community based organisations and traditional leaders. This commitment and mobilisation requires further integration into workplaces, study environments, and communities.
These partnerships, which are in line with the ethos of accountability as suggested by Van Soest, will serve the country well in consolidating the fight against HIV and Aids. It will also extend South Africa’s capacity to implement the comprehensive plan that has been the centre of the fight against this pandemic in the past five years.
Internationally, South Africa’s partnership extends to UNAIDS, individual governments, charitable foundations and the scientific community.
South Africa’s Comprehensive Plan for Management, Care and Treatment of HIV and AIDS has already resulted in treatment of 213 828 persons by the end of September 2006 on antiretroviral therapy. These numbers are further supplemented by other sectors of South African society – such as the private sector, faith-based organisations, and other non-governmental formations – that have embraced the challenge to provide ARVs to persons with Aids.
As part of the plan, each of the 53 health districts in the country now has at least one service point providing comprehensive HIV and Aids-related services, including antiretroviral treatment (ART), from prevention to terminal palliative care.
A total of 250 laboratories have been certified to provide support to the programme and three pharmacovigilance centres have been established to monitor and investigate adverse reaction to treatment.
Other essential elements that support and complement the comprehensive plan include the breaking down of stigma and discrimination associated with HIV prevention, treatment and care efforts.
Prevention activities are further enhanced by the promotion of fundamental human rights principles of dignity, equality, non-discrimination, and freedom – these form some of the cornerstones of the country’s approach to HIV and Aids prevention, care and support activities.
The solutions developed to overcome challenges associated with the pandemic have brought hope to people infected with or affected by HIV and Aids, and demonstrated the shared commitment of Government, civil society and other partners to sustain South Africa’s development and its “Age of Hope” as President Mbeki has characterised it.
Issued by: Meropa Communications
On behalf of: The International Marketing Council of South Africa (IMC)
Tyrone Seale (012) 366-1900