HIV/AIDS the way forward

The provision of ARV (anti-retro-viral) therapy should be fast-tracked, generic ARV drugs should be produced in South Africa and VAT should be removed from medicines the Nelson Mandela/HSRC Study on HIV/AIDS has recommended.

The study which drew on a sample of 9 963 people countrywide and includes anonymous saliva-based HIV tests from 8 840 participants was released in Johannesburg today (Thursday).

Key recommendations of the study are that government needs to intensify prevention and care efforts, including employing more health staff, training them in HIV care and expanding service provision. Informal settlements need particular attention.

The study found that there should be a massive expansion of a confidential Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) service as part of an overall prevention and care campaign. VCT should also result in support and care for those who test HIV positive.

In the short term, the report found that gender mainstreaming needed to take place in all HIV programmes, for example male partners need to be encouraged to come for VCT during Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission initiative. Medium-to-long-term, programmes aimed at the economic and social empowerment of women also needs to be prioritised so that women can exercise sexual rights.

Campaigns aimed at reducing stigma should be aimed at community leaders in a range of local organisations to create a climate in which people can safely disclose their HIV status.

Researchers also recommended that urgent research needs to be done on child sexual abuse.

The study suggested that multilingual media campaigns need to monitor perceptions and address myths and misconceptions and that telephone help-lines need to be monitored and evaluated to ensure they address information needs.

Community-level communication and improved partnerships with religious organisations needs to be built to address the media gap, particularly in rural areas. Finally, the study recommended that household studies be conducted at least every two years to track the epidemic and plan appropriate responses.

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