02 December 2008

The Aids war is over - sort of

While there was controversy and a split in the ANC over the resignation of President Thabo Mbeki, there were few to mourn exit of his health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. The Times - ‘The war is over’:
AFTER years of anger, South Africa yesterday commemorated World Aids Day, confident for the first time that the government is responding effectively to the epidemic.

Mark Heywood, deputy chair of the SA National Aids Council, said: “The war is over. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be disputes and that the Treatment Action Campaign will be muted when we have issues to raise — but it means that the level of resistance that we once encountered is over...

Last month The Times reported that a study by the Harvard School of Public Health in the US had found that more than 330000 lives had been lost because of the failure of Mbeki and Tshabalala-Msimang in the provision of HIV-Aids drugs between 2000 and 2005.

  • The Harvard report blamed the deaths on the reluctance of the Mbeki-led government to implement a feasible and timely antiretroviral treatment programme.

  • The study found that almost 35000 babies were born with HIV between 2000 and 2005 because Mbeki and his health minister had failed to make widely available the drug nevirapine, which prevents mother-to-child transmission of the virus.

  • The new Health Minister, Barbara Hogan, is taking action to turn this around.

    But the Mbeki government's failure to deal adequately with HIV/Aids has led to another health crisis:

    Al Jazeera English - Focus - South Africa's hidden epidemic:
    Once on the wane, tuberculosis is again resurgent, especially in countries facing major HIV/Aids epidemics.

    In 2006, it killed an estimated 1.7 million people, according to the UN. An estimated two million died of HIV/Aids, but for many the immediate cause was tuberculosis; TB is the number one killer for people with Aids.

    Unlike Aids, TB - once known as the white plague - is a curable disease, but proper treatment is complicated and requires at least a six-month course of antibiotics.

    However, HIV attacks the immune system, making people more susceptible to infections like TB, and as a result, there are high-levels of co-infection.

    One of the consequences of this has been the evolution of new strains of drug-resistant TB.

    This is my contribution to the Bloggers Unite on World Aids Day campaign.

    It's a day late, because yesterday was also the synchroblog on Mythical Monsters, which, though it seemed to me to be an interesting topic, only got three contributions. Anyway, better late than never, for both the Aids Day one and the mythical monsters one.

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