Sunday, July 25, 2010

AIDS: the view from Africa

I thought this article from the Zambian Watchdog was an interesting perspective on AIDS in Africa: HIV/AIDS in Zambia: A Three Decade Burden.

Here is an excerpt. One in eight Zambians is now infected with the virus. Something needs to be done, but what?

There must be a total re-think of Public health policy in Zambia. We have spent millions of dollars ‘mopping’ the flooded floor while the causative leaking tap is running!

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. HIV/AIDS must be declared a national disaster. I am glad that this was in the Patriotic Front Manifesto (2006). It is more than a partisan issue. We need the help of cooperating partners to deal with this, yes, but also ALL politicians and the highest office of the land must be directly involved. Awareness campaigns must extend beyond highlighting HIV infection alone, but other viral infections as well. This is why the issue of condoms is crucial.
  2. Testing. When there was no treatment available, it was quiet right to be as discreet and confidential as possible while dealing with this pandemic. But now, the life saving drugs that are available, not only prolong life, but also reduce the risk of spread of infection. All gloves are off. Treatment centres can deal with the problem of confidentiality by using numbers alone for identification. These test results must be fed into a central database so that the exact extent of the problem can be known.
  3. Treatment as a form of Prevention. It has been shown mathematically that treating every HIV positive person can lead to no new infections within ten years. If hospital staff were able to test universally, they could be able to commence treatment of patients, and if one million Zambians were on treatment it will go a long way in reversing our fortunes.

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