03 April 2009

Govts condom distribution flawed

The government's policy of leaving the decision of whether to distribute condoms in schools to school governing bodies was flawed, an Aids conference heard.


The government's policy of leaving the decision of whether to distribute condoms in schools to school governing bodies was flawed, an Aids conference heard.

During the South African Aids Conference held at Durban's Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre, Professor Susan Kippax of the University of Wales said government needed to have clear policy on condom distribution in schools.

"The current South African government's policy of leaving the decision of whether to distribute condoms in schools to school governing bodies of individual schools, rather than a clear national policy, is unlikely to be an effective public health strategy for improving access to condoms for populations of youths at high risk for HIV."

Kippax said condoms had shown to be 95% effective when used correctly.

20% of teen women HIV+
Delegates also raised questions why government was not formulating a clear policy on condom distribution. They argued that HIV prevalence among young women aged between 15 and 24 was estimated at 20%.

"Another problem that South Africa has, is that teachers lack comfort around teaching sexuality," said Kippax.

Earlier, Aids activists disrupted the conference. Security guards at the convention centre and police had to form a barrier to prevent members of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) from further interrupting proceedings.

"We are not happy with what is happening in this conference. Besides the fact that the conference is too academic, our voices as people living with Aids are not heard," said the TAC's Victor Lakay.

Delegates failed to tackle rolling out antiretroviral drugs to all HIV-positive people who needed them, he saud. "What is happening is that the same old declarations are rehashed and nothing gets done after these conferences have been held."

Zim patients not getting meds
Police spokesman Superintendent Vincent Mdunge said: "chaos was caused by a small group of TAC members and the situation is being managed by our members and staff from the centre".

Health Minister Barbara Hogan was expected to address delegates at the event's close. On Friday, delegates are expected to come with strategies of reducing new HIV infections and how to beef up treatment for people living with the virus in South Africa and other neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe.

It emerged during the conference that Zimbabwe's HIV-positive and TB patients were not getting necessary medication.

Professor Chris Beyrer, of the Johns Hopkins University, said thousands of Zimbabweans were likely to develop drug resistance because they were forced to stop taking drugs due to the shortage of medicine in that country.

He said thousands of people were denied access to health under President Robert Mugabe's regime. Beyrer called for Mugabe to be charged for crimes against humanity.

"There are over 800 000 people who need antiretroviral drugs in Zimbabwe and there are no drugs. The national TB lab has no staff. This is the direct outcome of the malfeasance of the Mugabe regime," he said.

He urged the world to call for the international court to charge Mugabe. There was also an urgent need to help Zimbabwe to re-open colleges and universities that trained doctors and nurses. "Zimbabwe has many doctors and nurses who are unable to finish their studies." – (Sapa, April 2009)

Read more:
Activists disrupt Aids conference


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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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