IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 175, 2 April 2004
Sunday 20 June 2004
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IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 175, 2 April 2004

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


SOUTH AFRICA: Slow start of ARV rollout
AFRICA: Fact Box - How to take antiretrovirals
SOUTH AFRICA: Chronology of HIV/AIDS treatment plan, August 2003 to April 2004
ETHIOPIA: National HIV/AIDS forum launched
AFRICA: Interview with AIDS activist Milly Katana
AFRICA: Interview with Michel Sidibe of UNAIDS
AFRICA: Report questions value of past AIDS lessons
SWAZILAND: Innovative approaches to HIV/AIDS
SWAZILAND: Campaign to help AIDS-hit education system
AFRICA: Generics challenge brand-name anti-AIDS drugs at
SOUTHERN AFRICA: Treatment programmes skewed in favour of
urban males
MOZAMBIQUE: Humanitarian agencies battle drought, poverty
and AIDS
BURUNDI: Medical personnel trained on prevention of
mother-to-child HIV infection


1. Foundation and the Association Francois-Xavier Bagnoud (AFXB)
2. Theatre for Life



SOUTH AFRICA: Slow start of ARV rollout

Dr Blackburn was one of eight doctors, a team of pharmacists, nurses, and dieticians on duty at the new antiretroviral treatment (ART) clinic at Johannesburg Hospital on Thursday, awaiting the expected flood of patients on the first day of the anti-AIDS drugs rollout in South Africa's Gauteng Province.

Although not the rush anticipated, the ART clinic saw 35 patients and put five on antiretrovirals (ARVs) over the course of the day as the government's long-awaited programme to provide free ARVs through the public health system began, albeit initially as a pilot scheme.

To qualify for ART, a patient must have a CD4 count (which measures the strength of the immune system) of 200 or below and be committed to following the regimen strictly.

Five hospitals - Johannesburg Hospital, Chris Hani-Baragwanath, Helen Joseph, Coronation and Kalafong - will provide the drugs to people living with HIV/AIDS in Gauteng, South Africa's economic heartland.

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AFRICA: Fact Box - How to take antiretrovirals

South Africa's Gauteng province on Thursday began the distribution of free antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to HIV-positive patients qualifying for treatment.

Gauteng, South Africa's economic heartland, has the country's second worst HIV prevalence rate at 14.7 percent. Nationally, 4.5 million South Africans are living with the virus.

Gauteng provincial government aims to have 10,000 people on ARVs by the end of March 2005, providing a triple drug regimen of 3TC, Efavirenz and Stavudine.

The fact box gives the answers to the following questions: what are these drugs and how do they work? What are the known side-effects of each drug? How are these drugs prescribed and how do I take them?

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SOUTH AFRICA: Chronology of HIV/AIDS treatment plan, August 2003 to April 2004

The South African cabinet on 8 August 2003 finally approved the provision of anti-AIDS drugs for HIV-positive people through the public health system and instructed the health ministry to act "with urgency".

The following is a chronology of events in the treatment access debate, from August 2003 through to the rollout of free antiretroviral (ARV) drugs on 1 April 2004 at five major hospitals in Gauteng Province.

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ETHIOPIA: National HIV/AIDS forum launched

Ethiopia has launched a National Partnership Forum Against HIV/AIDS to coordinate a multi-sectoral response to the disease, highlight the government's commitment and bring together a wide range of partners to avoid duplication of efforts, the government said.

A statement from the foreign ministry quoted President Girma Wolde-Giorgis, who launched the forum on Wednesday, as saying: "We should be able to discharge our historical responsibility of saving the generation from HIV/AIDS."

The statement quoted Girma as telling the forum that among other initiatives to fight the pandemic, the government had decided to supply antiretrovirals (ARVs) to people living with HIV/AIDS. He called on Ethiopian society to actively involve itself in preventing the further spread of HIV/AIDS.

Nigatu Mereke, the forum's chairman, said it had been convened due to a waste of valuable resources, resulting from duplication of efforts, in turn arising from lack of coordination among those fighting HIV/AIDS in Ethiopia.

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AFRICA: Interview with AIDS activist Milly Katana

Milly Katana is a member of the Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa, established last year by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. A long-standing AIDS activist and founder of the Pan African Treatment Access Movement, she spoke to PlusNews on the need for accelerated treatment programmes.

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AFRICA: Interview with Michel Sidibe of UNAIDS

Michel Sidibé is the director of the Department of Country and Regional Support at UNAIDS. He is also a member of the Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa, established by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to offer analysis and recommendations on the pandemic to political leaders. He spoke to PlusNews about the challenges facing African governments and societies.

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AFRICA: Report questions value of past AIDS lessons

A new think tank report has stressed the importance of local leadership in tackling the global HIV/AIDS pandemic and questioned whether past lessons had actually been learned, the multimedia broadcasting service, Voice of America, reported.

The London-based Panos Institute report said spending large sums of money in the hope of achieving rapid results had often brought "disappointing or short-lived" results.

Tom Scalway, author of the report, said there were clear reasons why Uganda, Senegal and Thailand had been successful in curbing the spread of the HI virus.

"The importance of local leadership; the importance of a civil society response; a vibrant media environment; the importance of local expertise - all these are locally owned and not imposed from outside. It's not expertise that's coming from the US or from northern Europe; it's capacity and it's energy that's within a country," Scalway added.

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SWAZILAND: Innovative approaches to HIV/AIDS

Swaziland's AIDS prevention and mitigation efforts will be given significant backing this year, now that the National Emergency Committee on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA), which distributes government, private sector and Global Fund monies to health care groups, is fully set up and funded.

"The process of assessment begun a year ago by the Global Fund, of our financial management, human resources, procurement, monetary and evaluation procedures, has found our house is now in order. We are now getting down to serious business," Dr Derek von Wissell, director of NERCHA, said in an interview with PlusNews.

"I think we are going to see significant interventions, and a number of innovative projects. These may only be visible by the end of this year and the beginning of 2005. But 2004 is a year of implementation," he said.

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SWAZILAND: Campaign to help AIDS-hit education system

Swaziland is establishing a local branch of the UN-supported Global Campaign for Education in an effort to improve the kingdom's schools and curriculum.

"Our goal is to provide free and quality education to all Swazis - to all children, of course - but also to Swazi women, to correct an historical imbalance," Evart Dlamini, acting administrator for the campaign told PlusNews.

The Global Campaign for Education has the backing of the UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, and is comprised of teachers' unions and education-oriented NGOs in participating countries. Dlamini is an official of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers, which is spearheading the national campaign, in partnership with the Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse (SWAGAA), the Swaziland Council of Churches, and the Swaziland branch of Women and Law in Southern Africa.

"We are planning public marches to highlight the need for better education and the inclusion of all children in schools," said Dlamini.

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AFRICA: Generics challenge brand-name anti-AIDS drugs at conference

US officials attending a major conference on anti-AIDS drugs in Botswana this week have dismissed allegations that they want to use the meeting to question the quality and safety of more affordable generic fixed-dose combinations (FDCs) of antiretrovirals.

"We want to see use of internationally accepted scientific principles that will be used in evaluation of Fixed Dose Combination drugs for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. The concern is the risk of resistance, because good drugs are not good enough with this disease," said Dr Mark Dybul, deputy chief medical officer for the US. Global AIDS Coordinator's office.

"We know from a decade of clinical experience that if you do not maximally suppress the virus, you significantly increase the risk of resistance. That is why we use three drug combinations, not one or two," Dybul added.

FDCs of antiretrovirals contain several AIDS drugs in one tablet, and are widely regarded as being a key to scaling up AIDS treatment in developing countries. They are recommended in the World Health Organisation's (WHO) treatment guidelines, and are at the heart of WHO's "3 by 5" initiative to have three million people on treatment by 2005.

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SOUTHERN AFRICA: Treatment programmes skewed in favour of urban males

The shortfall in extending antiretroviral therapy (ART) to HIV positive people in Southern Africa is "enormous", with mostly educated, urban males benefiting from existing programmes, says a new report.

The report was compiled by the Regional Network for Equity in Health in Southern Africa (Equinet) and Oxfam GB, and focuses on equity in health sector responses to HIV/AIDS.

The briefing paper, "ART Treatment Access and Effective Responses to HIV/AIDS - Providing New Momentum for Accessible, Effective and Sustainable Health Systems", found that "only one eligible person in 25,000" in the region was currently receiving treatment.

"Adult HIV prevalence in Southern Africa is estimated at 13.7 percent, with upper ranges of over 30 percent. This translates into approximately 15 million adults and children currently infected. Of these an estimated 700,000 to 1 million currently have AIDS. Such data indicates the significant burden of the disease in the region, and the scale of the response required," the report said.

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MOZAMBIQUE: Humanitarian agencies battle drought, poverty and AIDS

Lying on a mat outside her crumbling mud hut, 20-year-old Eva Matos gasps for breath, her skeletal chest heaving under a grimy sheet.

Her niece, 12-year-old Silvia, looks on helplessly as she cuddles her young cousin, three-year-old Emanuel. The eldest children in the household, a boy aged 15 and a girl aged 14, already with a baby of her own, are out looking for food.

It is two days since the family of six has eaten anything. "I had to sell my machamba (plot of land)," Matos says, tears rolling down her cheeks as she grimaces in pain.

Matos, whose name and that of her nieces and nephews have been changed to protect their privacy, has been head of the household since she was 15 years old. She had to drop out of school to look after her parents, who were sick for months on end with AIDS-related illnesses.

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BURUNDI: Medical personnel trained on prevention of mother-to-child HIV infection

African Synergy, an initiative of African first ladies on HIV/AIDS, begun on Monday a five-day training programme for 73 medical doctors, nurses and social workers on the prevention of mother-to-child HIV infection.

The training falls under activities of the local chapter of African Synergy, launched last week by Burundian first lady Aude Ndayizeye.

The participants are being trained on the different aspects of prevention of mother-to-child HIV infection such as counselling, administration of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), treatment of opportunistic diseases and nutrition.

The executive secretary of African Synergy, Jean Stephane Biatcha, said at the beginning of the training that mother-to-child HIV infections in Africa contributed significantly to the spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and compromised future generations in the continent.

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1. The Foundation and the Association Francois-Xavier Bagnoud (AFXB)

AFXB is a global activist group that undertakes a range of humanitarian initiatives focused on children and HIV/AIDS. The site includes the latest news from the Health and Human Rights Conference email list, a calendar of events, coverage on global issues, children's rights projects, a summary of FXB funded work in the field of health and human rights.

2. Theatre for Life

arepp: Theatre for Life is a community-based, educational theatre organisation, focusing on HIV/AIDS, sexuality, life skills, gender, and all forms of abuse. The performances aim to address the issues inherent in sexuality and the development of self image. "Each show is carefully crafted to highlight and encourage thought and debate around the issues of relationships, pregnancy, gender, discrimination, sex, HIV/AIDS and STI's and all forms of abuse. The specific goal is that, through the encouragement of positive self-image, the enforcement of self-esteem and the provision of complementary information and life-skills, learners will make sound, informed lifestyle choices about what is best for them, and their society, in their particular situations."


This new online magazine examines AIDS and tuberculosis as they affect business, economics, labour, law and security. TB-AIDS-BELLS uses interviews, field reports, conferences, impact studies and dossiers to evoke debate and stimulate thought provoking ways and new responses to the challenges posed by TB and HIV/AIDS.


Recent AFRICA Reports
Morris calls for increased effort in AIDS fight,  18/Jun/04
IRIN PlusNews Weekly Issue 186, 18 June 2004,  18/Jun/04
UN welcomes G8 endorsement of HIV vaccine initiative,  14/Jun/04
Church leaders to get more involved in fighting HIV/AIDS,  14/Jun/04
NGO in HIV/AIDS sensitisation efforts,  14/Jun/04

PlusNews is produced under the banner of RHAIN, the Southern African Regional HIV/AIDS Information Network. RHAIN's members currently include:


  • IRIN

  • Inter Press Service (IPS)



  • Health Systems Trust

  • Health & Development

  • GTZ/Afronets

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