02 December 2008

Global push in Aids fight

Governments across the globe pledged Monday to step up the fight against HIV, combating the stigma associated with the disease and promising to bankroll treatment programmes.

Governments across the globe pledged Monday to step up the fight against HIV, combating the stigma associated with the disease and promising to bankroll treatment programmes on World Aids Day.

US President George W. Bush was to announce his administration had already met its goal of treating two million people living with HIV/Aids by the end of the year, while his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao visited patients with the virus as part of a government effort to fight discrimination.

In South Africa, the country with the highest number of sufferers in the world, the government was mapping out its AIDS strategy under a new health minister as part of a sea-change in attitudes from the ANC government.

South Africans held a moment of silence at midday as a mark of respect for victims of the virus which has affected some 5.5 million people.

Men urged to get tested
Speaking at a ceremony in Durban, newly-appointed Health Minister Barbara Hogan urged men to overcome their traditional reluctance and voluntarily test for HIV.

"We encourage all men, I repeat all men, to test themselves for HIV to protect themselves and the people they love," Hogan said.

"We all know that together we shall overcome," she said.

In Johannesburg, the celebrated Beninese singer Angelique Kidjo also called for reducing the stigma still attached to the disease.

"HIV-Aids has become a huge issue for my continent and the fight against it must be relentless and determined," Kidjo told AFP.

"There is a need in Africa to educate people on the killer diseases and ailments such as AIDS, malaria, dysentery, cholera," said Kidjo, a UNICEF goodwill ambassador.

"It is pleasing to note that treatment for these diseases is becoming more accessible to people," said Kidjo.

Kidjo, who performed in South Africa on Saturday, is travelling to Dakar later Monday for a two-day musical campaign aimed at reducing the stigma of Aids.

Stripping away stigma
Hu's visit to a hospital in Beijing was also designed to strip away some of the stigma attached to the virus, following the launch on Sunday of a campaign being conducted with the United Nations to raise awareness about HIV/Aids.

"Stigma and discrimination are major obstacles in an effective response to Aids," said Health Minister Chen Zhu at the launch of the campaign at the Bird's Nest Olympic stadium.

"We need to engage all sectors of society in China to combat these issues and work to stop the disease."

China has about 700 000 people who are HIV-positive, according to a previously released estimate by the Chinese government and UN health organisations.

However only about 260 000 have been officially identified as having the disease.

Meanwhile in Washington, the White House said that Bush's emergency plan for AIDS relief (PEPFAR) had now supported life-saving antiretroviral treatment for over 2.1 million men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS around the world, including more than two million people in Sub Saharan Africa.

The programme provides funding for HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis treatment in 15 focus countries among the world's poorest, mainly in Africa.

"PEPFAR is the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in human history," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement. – (Sapa-AFP)

Read more:
HIV/Aids Centre

December 2008


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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