For more than 20 years an American HIV Travel and Immigration Ban has fuelled stigma, discrimination and misinformation.
But on 30 October last year President Barack Obama cancelled this ban, as he had promised to do.
“HIV infection will no longer be an ineligibility when foreign citizens apply for a visa to travel to the United States. Additionally, HIV testing will no longer be required for medical examinations for visa purposes,” the American diplomatic mission in SA announced on its website.
The US ban was shared by countries like Saudi Arabia and Libya. When it was repealed, US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said: “When it comes to ending the stigma of HIV/AIDS, we’ve been one of only 12 countries who, by their policies, still enable the myth that HIV/AIDS is a threat.
“Lifting the HIV “entry ban” represents… a blow against stigma.”
The entry restrictions on foreigners with HIV have disqualified the US from hosting prestigious international AIDS conferences for more than two decades. The last conference was held in San Francisco in 1990.
The same month the restrictions were lifted, the International AIDS Society announced that Washington DC will host the XIX International AIDS Conference in July 2012.
DC is the headquarters of the US Global AIDS Coordinator (which directs PEPFAR – President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) and the National Institutes of Health.
IAS president Dr Julio Montaner stated at the time: “We are extremely pleased that the United States’ new entry policy for people living with HIV reflects its key role in global efforts to combat AIDS.”
The biennial AIDS conference this year will be held in Vienna in Austria.
A new Ugandan study offers great hope for people with AIDS in rural areas in Africa needing antiretroviral treatment.
The trial tested a model in which lay-trained counsellors, not doctors or nurses, treated people at home – and they were as healthy as the patients being treated in clinics.
The cluster randomised trial took place in 44 areas in Jinja, Uganda.
The results, published in the Lancet journal online this week, suggested: “This home-based HIV-care strategy is as effective as is a clinic-based strategy.
“(This) could enable improved and equitable access to HIV treatment, especially in areas with poor infrastructure and access to clinic care.”
The researchers found after two and a half years that:
*Home-based ART by trained lay workers achieved equal health gains;
*Reduced mortality, hospital admission and viral supression were used to measure health gains;
*Patient costs were cut by half or more in the home-based care;
*Home-based care cost the health service slightly less.
Supporting the model, an editorial in Lancet stated: “This result provides compelling evidence for rolling out home-based ART to complement facility-based delivery and facilitate access.
“(This is true) especially in rural settings with weak health systems, shortage of clinical staff , and poor patients for whom transport cost and lost work-time provide obstacles to treatment initiation and adherence.”
The results are exciting but Uganda has one huge advantage over South Africa. Stigma around HIV/AID is far less prevalent and people are much more open about having the virus.
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.