THE good news that HIV infection rates in infants in South Africa have been halved from 8% to 3,5% and that access to medical male circumcision is rapidly expanding was released this week at the 5th SA AIDS Conference in Durban (as reported in The Times today).
And equally encouraging are the breakthroughs in HIV prevention research – in trials using ARVs for prevention – that have been reported in science journals over the last year.
These positive results were a major focus at the four-day conference (more detail in the Sunday Times).
The latest scientific results influenced debates on prevention and treatment between scientists and doctors at this conference and will impact on the drafting of South Africa’s new National Strategic Plan, due to be finalised by the end of this year.
The NSP 2012-2016 is expected to have realistic, measurable targets that are more achievable than the aspirational goals of the 2006-2011 NSP (which had targets like halving the rate of new infections by 2011).
The drafting of the plan – and each province is expected to submit a clear operational plan – will take place at the same time as the restructuring of SANAC, the SA National AIDS Council.
These steps – a focused new NSP, provincial plans for HIV/AIDS, a restructured SANAC, the contributions of experienced activists – combined with the tireless leadership of the Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and his team could help to reverse the HIV epidemic in South Africa.
This is the last day of the 5th SA AIDS Conference and maybe it is possible that by the next conference in Durban in 2013, delegates will be reporting that South Africa has succeeded in turning the tide against the epidemic.
The 3rd HIV and AIDS Workplace Conference to be held next week will focus on strengthening prevention efforts and research in the workplace.
“The conference will, for the first time, reflect on the intersection of workplace HIV responses, academic research and surveillance,” the organisers say.
The forum has also attracted delegates from other countries.
“Businesses cannot ignore the impact the pandemic has on productivity and the welfare of employees,” says senior researcher at the Health Economics and HIV and AIDS Research Division (HEARD), Gavin George.
“This conference will provide an opportunity to disseminate cutting-edge research that we hope will inform and improve prevention strategies in the workplace.”
The SA Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS (SABCOHA), HEARD, Wits Business School and the Foundation for Professional Development are major players in the private sector response to HIV/AIDS.
SABCOHA CEO, Brad Mears, says: “We aim to bring the private sector on board in playing a more participative role in addressing HIV and AIDS in the workplace.
“The conference offers business an opportunity to step back, reflect and review HIV and AIDS programmes in the workplace and to establish more results driven initiatives to ensure efficiency in addressing issues concerning the epidemic.”
“The 3rd HIV/ AIDS Conference invites the private sector, including business leaders, as well as concerned members of the community to attend the conference and “to take a more active role in addressing pertinent issues affecting business and African communities”.
The conference will take place from 9 – 11 November 2010 at the Gallager Estate, Midrand, Johannesburg , and the Minister of Health, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi , will open event.
*To register for attendance, visit www.sabcoha.org/conference