Cape Town’s mayor Dan Plato has dropped the ball: he has slammed a proposal, to brand condoms with soccer balls, as “nuts” for promoting prostitution.
In fact the innovative idea from the sex workers union (SWEAT) and the SA National AIDS Council (SANAC) is aiming to promote HIV prevention and awareness.
“I think they (Sweat and SANAC) are nuts thinking they can somehow promote prostitution through the World Cup,” Plato reportedly said.
He said there was “no way” he would condone the decriminalisation of prostitution and he was worried about “young girls on the streets”.
Young girls are particularly vulnerable to abuse while sex work remains illegal and underground.
SANAC’s health researcher Marlise Richter said: “Sex work has links to the World Cup, HIV/Aids, human rights, the law and public health.
“With the influx of an estimated 450 000 visitors to the country and with our high rates of HIV, it is critical that our laws create an environment (to achieve) the best possible public health outcomes.”
The decriminalisation of adult sex work in South Africa is under review and a paper by the SA Law Reform Commission, released this year, tabled four options from total criminalisation to non-criminalisation with regulation.
Adult sex work needs to be legalised to protect sex workers against violence and exploitation, reduce their risk of getting or spreading HIV and upholding labour and human rights.
Vivienne Lalu, SWEAT‘s advocacy officer told me: “We have been campaigning for decriminalisation for more than 14 years.
“Allegations that we are only pressing for 2010 spin-offs is a complete denial of not only sex worker rights, but human rights.
“The Amended Sexual Offences Bill to be delivered to the Department of Justice is due only in 2011,” she said.
Errol Naidoo, director of the Family Policy Institute, reportedly said he was concerned about reports that young girls were being trafficked into South Africa from rural areas and neighbouring countries to service visitors to the World Cup.
South Africa needs to create an environment to protect all sex workers ahead of the World Cup from violence and disease. 2010 condoms could contribute to this, and could even become souvenirs.
It is the first time on World AIDS Day that South Africa’s leaders have announced such good news: from April all babies under one years old will be able to get antiretroviral treatment and adults will be able to access to antiretrovirals with a CD4 count of 350 (up from the low bar of 200) – in line with international guidelines.
The government is also scaling up HIV testing, with Zuma and Motsoaledi indicating they will take HIV tests themselves.
I’m going away for two weeks and this is the perfect way to start my holiday. Will be back on December 16.
New HIV infections have come down 17% over the last eight years, UNAIDS and WHO reported today.
This finding, reported in the 2009 AIDS epidemic update, is good news.
New infections were down by about 400 000 in sub-Saharan Africa last year, about 15% lower than in 2001 when the UN Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS was signed.
But HIV is rising again in some countries, according to the report.
More people are living with HIV than ever before, an estimated 33.4 million worldwide – with about 5.5 million in South Africa.
“To better connect the 33.4 million people living with HIV and the millions of people who are part of the AIDS response”, UNAIDS has launched a free social networking site, called AIDSspace.org.
UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé said today: “The good news is that we have evidence that the declines we are seeing are due, at least in part, to HIV prevention.
“However, the findings also show that prevention programming is often off the mark.”
Over the past five years the number of AIDS-related deaths has declined by over 10%, with antiretrovirals saving some 2.9 million lives, the report indicated.
Dr Margaret Chan, Director- General of WHO said: “International and national investment in HIV treatment scale-up has yielded concrete and measurable results. We cannot let this momentum wane.
“Now is the time to redouble our efforts, and save many more lives.”
Sidibe said: “AIDS isolation must end. Half of all maternal deaths in Botswana and South Africa are due to HIV.
“This tells us that we must work for a unified health approach bringing maternal and child health and HIV programmes as well as tuberculosis programmes together to work to achieve their common goal.”
Lennox convinced 23 of the “world’s most acclaimed female vocalists” to record their voices for the SING anthem, which has raised about $2 million (almost R15 million) since 2003.
She says she started the campaign after visiting South Africa to perform in the first of Nelson Mandela’s 46664 HIV campaign concerts.
I was at that concert and her rendition of ‘Here Comes the Rain Again’ was spellbinding.
Lennox says on her website that during that trip she “witnessed the lack of resources available to help the world’s largest population living with the devastating disease”.
SING has partnered with the Treatment Action Campaign to promote HIV/AIDS treatment, testing, education, and prevention programmes.
Lennox explains why the campaign is called SING: “The stigma of HIV is so high that people are afraid to talk openly about the issue, or their status. South Africa has a tradition of activist songs and singing…When people get together to sing, they become encouraged and inspired.”
She says: “In the words of Nelson Mandela: ‘Let us use the universal language of music, to sing out our message around the world.’”
“We are definitely going to win this war. I can feel it in my blood, I can see it in your eyes, I can feel it in this place,” Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi told hundreds of delegates at the Positive Convention “it’s about living with HIV/AIDS” at Midrand today.
Pholokgolo Ramothwala, who has been living with HIV for the past 11 years, dreamed up the concept – of a conference specifically for people living with the virus.
Judge Edwin Cameron, who has been HIV positive for nearly 20 years, hailed President Jacob Zuma’s speech last week, in which he called for a national movement against the pandemic.
“The president showed us in that speech that he knows what must be done. There must be no shame. No discrimination. No recrimination. And the president said we must end stigma,” Cameron said.
Dr Nono Simelela, CEO of the SA National AIDS Council and the former head of SA’s HIV/AIDS programme, said: “This is an amazing time in South Africa.”
The first ever convention for people living with HIV/AIDS will take place in Midrand on Friday, initiated by the outstanding HIV activist Pholokgolo Ramothwala, who has been living with HIV for the past 11 years.
He says: “Positive Convention is a conference about living with HIV/AIDS for people living with HIV or AIDS. Its theme is based on the premise: ‘No one knows and understands the challenges of living with HIV or AIDS than those who are living with the virus’.
“It will address social and workplace issues faced by people living with HIV/AIDS, that is, stigma, discrimination, alcohol abuse, treatment adherence, reproductive rights and legal issues amongst others. The topic ‘Young professionals living with HIV/AIDS’ will be given a special focus.”
Ramothwala is expecting about 300 people to attend the conference, which will also focus on the role that people with HIV can play in prevention efforts and as role models in promoting healthy lifestyles and self confidence.
High profile speakers like the Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, SANAC CEO Dr Nono Simelela, Constitutional Court Judge Edwin Cameron, and Dr Mary Fanning, the US Health Attaché, will speak at the meeting.
Soul City, the Positive Women’s Network, PEPFAR agencies, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USAID and Johns Hopkins Health and Education South Africa are supporting this initiative.
More than five million South Africans are HIV positive, according to the 2008 HSRC national survey.
Show Me Your Number is a campaign that targets soccer players and their fans, encouraging them to score goals for life against HIV/AIDS as well as scoring on the field.
As South Africa gears up for the 2010 World Cup, this initiative to promote wellness among players and their communities is winning support.
Now the “sports and entertainment” sector of the SA National AIDS Council (SANAC) is also getting up to speed ahead of next year’s soccer spectacle, its spokesman Thulani Njapa says.
Njapa says they will be “hosting a symposium on 18 November”. They recently held a sports and entertainment secretariat summit attended by deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe.
The popularity and lifestyles of soccer stars put them at risk of HIV/AIDS.
As Bafana Bafana and Pirates star, Teko Modise, told me after taking an HIV test as an example to all South Africans to find out their status by testing: “We have lost a couple of players to some diseases and they are exposed to a lot of stuff. Players are getting tempted all the time.”
Show Me Your Number project manager, Mabalane Mfundisi, described one of their goals in this way: “As soccer players we’re saying: ‘Just don’t go on doing wrong things. You need to take responsibility because you have power.
“People look up to you. And other than looking up to you scoring goals, they want to see you scoring goals of life, scoring goals of responsibility’,” said Mfundisi, who is also the chairman of the AIDS Consortium.
The South African government’s spending on HIV/AIDS programmes – announced yesterday for 2009/2010 – is roughly the same amount as the US government is spending in our country on HIV/AIDS programmes.
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said that the total funding for HIV and AIDS programmes would be R4.4 billion in 2009/2010.
The US PEFPAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) funding to South Africa in the 2008 financial year was almost R4.5 billion ($590.9 million).
Both South Africa and PEPFAR have increased funding for HIV prevention, care and treatment by roughly four times in the last four years, since 2005. Antiretroviral treatment was rolled out in the public health system for the first time in 2003.
South Africa now has about 650 000 people on antiretroviral treatment and it is estimated an additional 300 000 people will need treatment every year. By March next year, an estimated 900 000 South Africans will be on treatment.
The Treasury has made a commitment to funding treatment but it still looks like South Africa is highly dependent on foreign donors to sustain the scale of its HIV/AIDS programmes.
The latest HIV/AIDS statistics for South Africa, released by Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi yesterday, show that prevalence is still far too high – 40% among women in their 30s.
This shows that national prevention campaigns are not making a significant impact.
At least Dr Motsoaledi is an honest minister, stating at the launch of the 2008 antenatal HIV and STD survey that: “The prevalence among women aged 25 and above (which is 29%) has stabilised at high and unacceptable levels.”
He admits South Africa seems to be losing the battle”. But he says the war is not lost.
These new figures show that prevention strategies are not protecting young women – new infections among teens rose from 13% in 2007 to 14% in 2008.
Professor Helen Rees, director of the Wits RHRU Unit, called for new prevention strategies at an HIV Clinicians Society meeting last week in Johannesburg.
RHRU is currently conducting research on keeping teenage girls in school since three studies have shown that keeping adolescents in school protects them against HIV.
Rees also suggested integrated male circumcision programmes as a prevention strategy for boys.