Thursday, December 1, 2011

Getting to Zero

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I’m torn between two hot topics that require equal attention so I’m tweeting about COP 17 and blogging about World AIDS Day.

Zero AIDS new infections:

Ironically, HIV/AIDS is not a sexy topic. It’s an attention seeking, conceited and expensive devil. It’s almost 30 years since the first recognised cases of AIDS.  It resulted in a surge of rumours, theories and myths which we’re still battling to slay. It’s not a gay disease, it didn’t originate from a bestial encounter in the depths of Africa, it doesn’t only infect poor black heterosexuals and a hug, kiss or handshake will not jeopardise your health. It’s an exhausting battle. The same pamphlets that were handed out in the 90’s could still be handed out 20 years later. The same movies and documentaries made years ago are still relevant. Millions of  Rands, Dollars, Pounds, Euros, Pulas, Rupees, Pesos and Shillings have been poured into AIDS awareness campaigns.

Uganda began promoting sexual behaviour change in 1986. President Kaunda of Zambia announced that his son had died of AIDS in 1987. In 1993 an estimated 9 million adults in sub-Saharan Africa were infected with HIV and 1.7 million with AIDS. These numbers continue to fluctuate between bad and worse. In 1997, Fela Kuti, Nigeria’s most famous musician died of Kaposi’s Sarcoma; an AIDS-related illness. In 1999 Nevirapine, a new single dose drug for the future prevention of mother-to- child transmission in Africa. In 2002, Botswana began Africa’s first national AIDS treatment programme. Despite this, according to the World Health Organization 2.7 million people are newly infected worldwide.

Zero AIDS- related deaths:

I’m a little hopeful in this area. Anti- retroviral therapy has become more easily available and many people can live a long and healthy life as a result. Botswana, Namibia, Uganda and Rwanda have become great examples of countries providing effective health and support systems. Aaron Mostoaledi (South African Health Minister) has been breaking a sweat trying to increase ARV rollout, HIV/Aids prevention strategies.

Zero Discrimination:

National radio stations were overflowing with callers eager to tell their stories about positive living and encouraging others to do the same. With the support of friends, family and a non discriminative society many told stories of how they are fighting this attention seeking, conceited and expensive devil. In the time I’ve taken to write this blog over a thousand tweets with the hash tag World AIDS Day have been sent. Ordinary people, organisations, campaign groups and activists encouraging zero discrimination, zero AIDS related deaths and zero new infections. Apathy in itself is a disease so (in the words of Charlie Sheen) in some respects we're "winning".

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