The 16 Days of No Violence Against Women and Children ended today, on International Human Rights Day, with Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa calling on the police “to safeguard society”.
One in four women in South Africa say they have been raped and one in three men admit to perpetrating rape, according to a recent Medical Research Council report.
The chances of getting HIV are higher through violent sex, and one out of five confessed rapists tested positive for HIV.
In 2007, 36 190 cases of rape – 99 per day – were reported to police.
One out of two women in the survey said they had experienced violence during their lives and three out of four men said they had committed violence against women.
NGOs like Brothers for Life are taking a stand against this violence but we all need to take action and not look away, in line with the campaign’s slogan.
* Call Childline on 08000 55555 or Lifeline on 0861 322 322 if you are at risk of abuse or need support
* Seek help if you are emotionally, physically or sexually abusive to your partner and/or children. Call the Stop Gender Based Violence helpline: 0800 150 150
Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, Usher and Justin Timberlake have given up their digital lives to support a campaign for AIDS orphans in Africa and India.
They are among a group of popular stars who have died digital deaths to raise funds for Keep a Child Alive.
They will not Twitter or do Facebook updates until one million dollars is donated to the project – to buy back their lives.
Fans in the US and UK have so far contributed $182 828, which means they are more than a tenth of the way to this goal.
Visit their sites to read the last tweets and testaments.
Keep a Child Alive provides “treatment, love and support to families affected by HIV/AIDS”, particularly to the 15 million children without parents.
The Buy Life campaign exploits the popularity of social media in an innovative way.
Amid a myriad of World AIDS Day stories and reports this week, their concept stands out even to me, a digital dinosaur.
I have ambivalent feelings about World AIDS Day.
As an HIV reporter I’m glad space is set aside for stories.
But, this epidemic demands attention every day if we want to defeat it and have HIV/AIDS free generations.
Children who were exposed to nevirapine (to prevent mother-to-child-transmission of HIV) benefit from switching back to a nevirapine regimen after they have achieved viral suppression using a protease inhibitor, an important study shows.
Protease inhibitor (PI) therapy is recommended initally to achieve viral suppression for infants with HIV who have been exposed to nevirapine for PMTCT.
This randomised controlled trial tests whether young children switched back to nevirapine can maintain viral suppression.
The new study published this week in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) – with Dr Ashraf Coovadia the lead author and Dr Louise Kuhn the corresponding author – demonstrates the “many advantages” of putting these children back onto nevirapine.
The trial was conducted at a Johannesburg Hospital from April 2005 to May 2009 among 195 children who had achieved viral suppression, from a cohort of 323 nevirapine-exposed children who initiated PI-based therapy before 24 months of age.
The results showed that the children switched back to nevirapine achieved lower rates of virus in the blood (lower viremia) compared to the children who stayed on ritonavir-boosted lopinavir.
Coovadia listed the limitations PI-regimens (based on ritonavir-boosted lopinavir) for children as:
- unpleasant taste which makes long-term adherence difficult for young children
- concerns about metabolic toxicities during children’s development and
- more expensive than nevirapine and thus a barrier in low-resource settings
The researchers said their results “suggest that a majority of nevirapine-exposed children who are successfully treated with initial regimens…could benefit from the switch strategy.”
The switch group also had a better CD4 cell response.
The SA Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS has ambitious “2010 special projects” for the World Cup which were launched in Soweto this week.
The first is to get condoms out to soccer fans. During the Wolrd Cup SABCOHA and members of the Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (FEDHASA) will distribute more than one million condoms into guests’ rooms at hotels and B&Bs.
Southern Suns hotels on its own will hand out half a million condoms, and the Department of Health has supplied one million condoms.
Partners in this initiative like Cape Town Tourism have branded their condoms with messages like Play It Safe in Cape Town.
SABCOHA CEO Brad Mears said: “With soccer fever running high, it is hard not to feel excited about the opportunities that this huge event will bring to our country.
“However, we should not lose sight of some of the more serious social challenges that the country will face during this time too.”
Keeping children safe during the long holiday is one of the challenges and for this reason, SABCOHA and its partners have organised supervised day camps in five provinces.
The camps will be held in Mdantsane, Eastern Cape; Mitchell’s Plain, Western Cape; Chaneng Village, North West; Chesterville, KwaZulu-Natal; and Soweto, Gauteng for 19 days, from 14 June to 9 July.
About 1500 children from 6 to 13 years old are expected to attend the camps.
Soul City, Dance4Life, the South African Rugby Legends Association and PlaySoccer will provide activities for the “Camp I Am” programmes.
HIV/AIDS prevention messages will also be a priority.
Children will also get involved in documenting their view of the World Cup using multimedia platforms.
Operation Hope, the leading US non-profit social investment banking and financial literacy empowerment organisation, will offer financial literacy games to children as well as do adult financial literacy training in the communities.
Community groups be help prepare meals and raise funds through these services, and four of the camps will be held at schools. Major companies are helping to sponsor the holiday programmes.
Nearly half the teenagers admitted to two hospitals in Harare in Zimbabwe were infected with HIV and the virus was the most common cause of in-hospital death among them, a new study shows.
Adult opportunistic infections and chronic paediatric HIV/AIDS complications were the most common cause for their admission.
Many of them were likely to have a mother who was HIV-positive or who had died of AIDS but they had survived into older childhood.
Now they need “better recognition” and care, Rashida Ferrand and his co-authors stated.
Wits HIV expert, Professor Glenda Gray, supported this call, stating in the same journal: “There is an urgent need for services that will be able to provide accessible and appropriate HIV testing, counselling, and support, as well as facilitate access to ART and appropriate sexual risk-reduction interventions.
“The adolescents admitted to hospitals in Harare could have benefited from early diagnosis and concomitant initiation of ART, and this absence of treatment should not continue to be the plight of similar adolescents in our region.”
In South Africa as many as half a million children are estimated to have HIV.
Dr Marnie Vujovic, a clinical psychologist for Wits Paediatric HIV Clinics, said that sensitive and age-appropriate disclosure to adolescents born with HIV was critical to their physical, mental and social wellbeing – and to avoid them finding out by accident.
“Disclosure to children is the biggest issue in our caregiver support groups and a problem at all sites,” she said.
“Sick kids need medicine. Please share with them,” Zoia Kallimanis Foster, from New York, read from her letter to pharmaceutical executives and government leaders.
Children from 14 countries have written letters to drug companies and governments, urging them to help children living with HIV/AIDS – through the ‘Prescription for Life’ campaign, launched today on Universal Children’s Day.
They are asking them “to improve testing and treatment for infants and children living with HIV”, estimated to number more than two million in 2007.
Only about 15% of those children get the antiretroviral drugs they need to stay alive.
“Without treatment, nearly a third of HIV-positive infants die by their first birthday, and half of all children born with HIV die before they are two years old,” the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance says.
The alliance and UN partners held a panel today at the UN headquarters in New York on children with HIV, as well as launching an exhibition of the letters last night at the UN.
“These letters remind us that if children can figure it out, why can’t we?” Canadian Karen Plater, co-chairperson of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance’s HIV and AIDS Strategy Group, asked at the exhibit.
I know this is the second “campaign” post this week but, like the Lords of Bling campaign, I think it’s an outstanding initiative.
Sesame street has been exported to 120 countries which adapt it to their needs. In South Africa one of the stars of Takalani Sesame is healthy, happy Kami – a five-year-old yellow muppet living with HIV.
Her name Kami means “acceptance” and her puppet tackles difficult issues such as loss – in the fifth season last year she mourned her mother’s death – and rejection with courage.
Kami is loved by everyone and her impact on children aged three to five has even been studied by the HSRC.
Funding from PEPFAR (The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) slashed the Aids death toll in the 12 targeted African countries from 2004-2007 by more than 10%, a new study suggests.
But PEPFAR money going to HIV prevention had not significantly lowered the number of people living with HIV since the programme kicked off in 2003.
The study by researchers from Stanford University’s School of Medicine is published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and is the first to assess its value.
The authors calculated that PEPFAR spent about R20 000 ($2450) on treatment for every life saved, about 1.2 million in total. Roughly half of the initial $15-billion programme over five years went to antiretroviral drugs.
The death rates rose in all 41 of the countries studied before the programme took effect. When the funding was flowing, the death toll fell by 10.5% in the 12 focus countries compared to the control countries.
The authors concluded: “After 4 years of PEPFAR activity, HIV-related deaths decreased in sub-Saharan African focus countries compared with control countries, but trends in adult prevalence did not differ.”
But they caution: “Many factors beside introduction of PEPFAR could have contributed to the observed findings.”
Already back in 2004 South Africa’s demand for PEPFAR money exceeeded expectations and by the beginning of last year PEPFAR funding for HIV/Aids programmes came close to matching the South African government’s own budget for dealing with the epidemic.
As I reported then, the US provided R4.3-billion to South Africa in 2008 to support its HIV/Aids programmes, while the government had budgeted R4.6-billion for that financial year for HIV/Aids.
Last July the US Senate reauthorised, and increased, the PEPFAR funding to $48 billion budget for five more years.
Most posts will be short but there will be exceptions – and Jo’s story is one.
I’ve written a story for the Sunday Times today about telling children they have HIV. This was prompted by Jo’s (not her real name) testimony.
She has courageously confronted HIV in her own life and her child’s, and they are living healthy and happy lives.
But for 11 years after her son was born, she struggled with how to tell him his status.
This is her account:
Jo wishes she had known she was HIV positive when she was pregnant so that she could have prevented mother-to-child HIV transmission.
“I was 25 years old and this was a planned pregnancy in a stable relationship so my gynae didn’t advise me to take an HIV test. She said I shouldn’t worry about it so I never thought of doing it.”
But Jo realised when her baby was eight months old that something was wrong.
“At the immunisation clinic they told me he wasn’t putting on weight and I went to consult a private paediatrician.
“He advised me to take an HIV test and tested the baby. I was shocked and devastated at the result.”
Her ex-husband, who she believes infected her since he was the first person with whom she had unprotected sex, abandoned them.
Jo was referred a doctor at a government hospital where she met a “very knowledgable and good doctor”.
“He sat me down and counselled me, and I was very lucky to be put on a clinical trial for medication as my medical aid would not pay. At that time in 1999 it was dual therapy.
“We are living testimony that antiretrovirals give you life.
“I’ve never been ill and my child has never been ill apart from common children’s infections like bronchitis,” she says.
Sam (not his real name) has never been admitted to hospital or missed school because of opportunistic infections, which are common among people with HIV not taking the daily tablets.
“But it was hard for him to understand why he was taking medicines when he was not sick and why he could not sleep over at friends (because he needed to take medicines away from curious onlookers) and he felt deprived.”
Jo says she avoided talking about HIV. She would change the topic or switch TV programmes if the topic veared too close to home.
An HIV advertisement flighted for World Aids Day on December 1 ( Don’t give your child HIV. Give your child love) made her heartsore.
Jo says: “I would switch the channel. Of course if I had known my status I would have taken medication and protected my child.”
This is still an urgent issue for thousands of pregnant women in South Africa even today. If they do get tested for HIV, they can protect their unborn babies against the virus as the medication is readily available.
Yet an estimated 60 000 babies every year are still born with HIV.
Jo says she delayed talking to Sam partly because her siblings were so shocked when they found out.
“They did not take it well at all and it was a traumatic experience.
“I had to assure them that I was fine. For them it just meant death.
(Now they understand and are supportive.)
Also what Sam was learning at school about HIV was so negative. “They were sending the wrong messages,” Jo says.
Luckily there was one positive programme on TV about inspiring teenagers with HIV and how they coped.
One morning over the holidays, Sam asked his mother why he needed to take daily medication.
“I wasn’t ready to tell him,” she says.
“But he said: ‘Mummy I’m big now, tell me.’ So I told him we are HIV positive and he said: ‘M-u-m!’
“ He said that he didn’t believe it as he was not sick. He wept, and I counselled him.
“Half an hour later he said that he was fine. I thought we would have a miserable festive season but we had a wonderful Christmas and New Year.”
They celebrated the 2009 New Year together are even closer now than they had been before.
None of her fears about disclosing to her child — shared by thousands of parents and caregivers in South Africa — were realised and she is so happy she told her child.
“You have to tell your child ultimately. They have to know and it is best they know from you.”
Now Jo and her fiance, who is also HIV positive, plan to have a second child and they will be careful to make sure HIV is not passed on.
* For more information on how to disclose to children visit http://www.childrensrightscentre.co.za/site/files/6592/pub1.pdf