Thursday, October 15, 2009

World AIDS Day – Edition - The Ripple Effect
1 December 2009
Guest Editors – Editorial
Welcome to this bumper World AIDS Day edition of the Ripple Effect brought to you in association with The World AIDS Campaign. This special issue not only provides relevant HIV and AIDS information and articles with details on new developments in the war on HIV and AIDS but is a comprehensive HIV training and information resource.

The World AIDS Campaign theme for 2009/2010 is “Universal Access and Human Rights” as 2010 will be a milestone for the Millennium Development Goals, and aims to encourage high level review of what has, and has not, been accomplished in the aim to achieve access for all to essential care by 2010.
As this is the third year that I am privileged to be the guest editor of the World AIDS Day edition I cannot help but reflect on previous messages and campaigns and notice that there appears to be a number of campaigns that although highly controversial are challenging the methodology and thoughts of previous campaigns.
On Tuesday 6 October 2009, the Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, when releasing the results of the 2008 HIV antenatal survey in Pretoria warned that the prevalence of HIV among pregnant women is still unacceptably high and that South Africa would be in “big trouble” if it did not take drastic measures to counter the pandemic.
The prevalence of HIV infections among pregnant women tested was 29.3%, an increase on the 28% antenatal prevalence survey figures released in 2008.
It is very clear that this epidemic is having a huge impact on the health system in South Africa.
A more aggressive prevention campaign is needed while at the same time HIV awareness champions are faced with huge AIDS fatigue when it comes to the messages used to raise awareness of HIV and the killer syndrome it causes, called AIDS.
More of the same is simply not an option any more …it has not worked so far and hence why should one consider that it will in the future. HIV remains incurable but it would be foolish to put forward that nothing has changed in our approach and in our understanding around the science and treatment of the virus. Neither would it be correct to assume that people have the same attitudes they had in the 80’s. It is time to stop the “wishy washy” campaigns filled with an over sensitive approach in fear of offending someone. I have been challenged by a few campaigns we have decided to include in this edition, not because they are polite and sensitive but because they will provoke feelings, emotions and debate.
The “Stop the Villain”, “AIDS is a Mass Murderer” or “SSyney” campaigns are amongst those that will not go unnoticed and might offend someone. Yet, as a person who has been living with HIV for 13 Years, I do not think that I am a villain or a mass murderer. These messages are aimed at a new innovative and fresh approach to making people aware that we still have a deadly virus in our midst. In the same way that I am fighting the virus in my body with the use of anti retroviral treatment, nutrition, treatment of opportunistic infections, support and care we all need to take action that will stop the virus from spreading. HIV is not my friend, it is an uninvited guest and I aim to stop this villain from simply taking over and ending my life. Taking the focus off the infected person and placing it squarely on the culprit THE HI VIRUS seems perhaps to be the correct approach. People are not the villains or the problem; it is the virus that is the problem. We all need to take appropriate action as through our denial we are directly supporting and enabling the virus to continue on its destructive path.
We need to start talking boldly about this virus. Education is the key. The enemy is the virus and this enemy needs to be stopped at ANY cost and the only person that can do this is YOU and ME.
Using the correct language is important in awareness campaigns (read the Training Material on page 19) but it is also important that we unite and name the Human Immune Deficiency Virus for what it is; it is a villain and a mass murderer.
At the same time together and individually we can all play a proactive role to rule out stigma, discrimination and victimisation against those that are infected by the virus. They are not our enemy, the virus is. Lets us be vocal in our demands as we fight for the universal access to treatment, equality, human rights and dignity for all HIV infected people.
Alan Brand
World AIDS Day – 2009

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