Early HIV Testing Key for Success of African Treatment Programs, Expert Says at South Africa Conference
June 8, 2005
Early HIV testing is an important factor for the successful implementation of HIV/AIDS treatment programs in African countries, Ernest Darkoh, former operations manager of Botswana's public antiretroviral drug program, said on Tuesday at the 2nd South African AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, Reuters AlertNet reports (Quinn, Reuters AlertNet, 6/7). About 1,000 AIDS advocates and health professionals were expected to attend the three-day conference, which opened on Tuesday and aims to evaluate South Africa's HIV/AIDS treatment programs (Nullis, Associated Press, 6/7). Darkoh, who was the keynote speaker at the conference, said it is important for people to undergo early testing for HIV to avoid a "deluge of sick people hungry for treatment," according to Reuters AlertNet. Darkoh said that Botswana's decision in early 2004 to implement routine HIV testing for incoming patients at medical clinics made a "big difference in catching people before they are too sick to work and become a bigger burden on social services," according to Reuters AlertNet. "You are overwhelmed at first by the very sick, and they are very resource intensive, if you at least get them while they are still ambulatory, you have a chance," Darkoh said. Botswana has an HIV/AIDS prevalence of about 40% of the adult population, one of the highest in the world. Darkoh said that developing countries -- including South Africa -- could learn from Botswana's experience providing antiretroviral drugs, according to Reuters AlertNet. "The issues on the ground, at an operational level, are the same," Darkoh said, adding, "You have to wake up and say you are going to do it -- it may take 20 years, but you are going to do it" (Reuters AlertNet, 6/7).
South African Military
Also Discuss Other Diseases, Health Minister Says
South African Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang "caused an uproar" on Tuesday at the conference when she "questioned the necessity" of the meeting and also urged those present to discuss diseases other than HIV/AIDS, according to London's Guardian (Siegfried, Guardian, 6/8). "I hope you have come in such big numbers not just to focus on one ailment but to focus on all of them because many other people are dying of other diseases in this country," Tshabalala-Msimang said, adding, "Even though it is a conference on HIV and AIDS, you must not forget to talk about cancers, you must not forget to talk about diabetes, you must not forget to talk about other communicable diseases" (AFP/Yahoo! News , 6/7). The South African HIV/AIDS treatment advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign has called for Tshabalala-Msimang to resign because of her statements promoting natural HIV/AIDS treatments and her emphasis on the side effects of antiretrovirals, according to BBC News. TAC asked the minister to make an "unequivocal statement" endorsing antiretrovirals as the "most effective" treatment for HIV/AIDS, according to BBC News (Miles, BBC News, 6/7).
This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.