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Wednesday 22 February 2006
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Beyond the Borders of HIV/AIDS Treatment Strategies

Dear Diary,

A recent visit to Zambia made me realise that the HIV/AIDS situation is not much different, except that in South Africa there are more resources for addressing the pandemic.

Then why, even in the face of financial adversity, does Zambia seem to demonstrate so much more commitment to tackling AIDS than my own country?

A trip to Chawama Health Centre, a public facility south of the capital, Lusaka, answered this question.

The clinic's rundown appearance created the impression that it was as uneventful as the traders struggling to sell their wares at the nearby market, but this changed when I met the resident healthcare workers, who were still able to uphold their oath of preserving life in spite of being understaffed and overworked.

Carrying the additional burden of being situated in a high-risk malaria zone, Chawama's anti-AIDS intentions were illustrated by a poster in one of the cramped HIV voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) rooms, which read: "Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is Achievable + Realistic + Time-bound".

Simple yet powerful, the motto was one that could definitely be followed by the South African government, whose political will only ever gained momentum when it was threatened with losing voter support at election time.

Senior Chawama staff escorted me through the various departments, explaining the successes as well as the hurdles it experienced while attempting to educate individuals and couples about the importance of VCT.

With a total of just 30 beds - 10 for men, 10 for women and 10 for children - it's hard to imagine that there would be any success stories coming out of this place.

However, midwife Ann Mwape told me ARVs were daily administered to six newborn babies and, despite the obstacle of stigma, prevention of mother-to-child transmission programmes were making strides.

Of course, there were still the usual hiccups, like monitoring mothers and babies who were unable to afford the travel costs of follow-up visits.

"For this a mobile team is dispatched daily to various community centres within reasonable walking distance for our mothers. The outreach service also helps to alleviate congestion at the clinic," Mwape said.

In South Africa I was spoiled for choice when it came to healthcare, and I found myself humbled by the almost desperate situation of my HIV-positive Zambian counterparts.

While trying to uncover what made Chawama unique, I realised that the answer had been in plain view all the while - "Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is Achievable + Realistic + Time-bound".

My government has been taken to task on countless occasions over their indifference to the death of up to 600 South Africans each day from AIDS-related illnesses.

By US or British standards our public healthcare system is nothing to brag about, but compared to other African countries I can confidently say, 'we have it made'.

Yet this only seems to fuel my anger at the government. Perhaps if we were all able to look beyond our borders and cultural differences we might benefit from each other's approaches to the epidemic?

I was sorry to leave Zambia at the end of the week, because being there made me see that effective HIV/AIDS treatment strategies have everything to do with compassion and very little to do with the quantity of resources we have.

Forever Positive,
Hayden Horner

Previous Entry :: All Diary Entries :: Next Entry
Diary Entries
HIV/AIDS Coping Mechanisms: "What would a mayfly do?"
Beyond the Borders of HIV/AIDS Treatment Strategies
HIV/AIDS Feminisation: A new wine in an old bottle
Antiretrovirals - The Wind Beneath My Wings
The Mis-education of HIV/AIDS Clinicians
HIV Prevention 101: Ignoring the Church's views on condoms
Stigma and HIV/AIDS: lethal bedfellows
In remembrance of our women and children
Maids, madams and the "terrible thing"
Internet love and inter-related HIV-prejudice
Previously eyes-wide-shut on HIV and religion
Love, lies and disclosure
Black pot and blacker kettle
Things better left unsaid on the bus
Food for thought while waiting to die
Test results not all good
Diary speaks back
The truth about disclosure

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