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.
It’s official: SA’s HIV rate is stabilising at 10.9% – 5.2 million people in 2008 – according the third national HIV survey by the Human Sciences Research Council, released yesterday.
HIV rates among adults (15-49 years old) have risen in KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, North West, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, but they have declined in the Western Cape, Gauteng, the Free State and Northern Cape.
The good news is that HIV prevalence among children, 2-14 years old, has more than halved: from 5.6% in 2002 (the first survey) to 2.5% last year.
The mother-to-child prevention programme, which started early in the Western Cape in defiance of the national government, can take credit for this reduction.
The HSRC also reports a reduction in HIV among teenagers (15-19 years old).
Condom use is also rising sharply among 15 to 49 year old, from 31% condom use (at last sex act) in 2002 to 65% in 2008.
But it’s not all good. The survey finds an increase in two high risk behaviours that are known to spread HIV: intergenerational sex and the number of sexual partners.
And it’s exposed ugly gaps in prevention awareness. Although the percentage of people who know their status almost doubled from 2005 to 2008, HIV prevention knowledge among vulnerable groups nationally has declined from 2005.
The government’s Khomanani programme reached the fewest people of the prevention programmes surveyed.