Thursday, June 9, 2011
June 5, 2011 will mark 30 years since the first cases of AIDS were reported
Key would be a focus of the South African response (or mostly lack of response) and in particularly the effects that stigma and intolerance towards those affected by HIV and AIDS have had on our ability to respond appropriately over the past 3 decades, both internationally and in South Africa.
30 years later one has to reflect back and assess both the failures to respond effectively but also to highlight milestones and successes in the collective consciousness of mankind to respond to the news of a new “deadly CANCER discovered that affects homosexuals”, in June of 1981 in the US.
The first case of HIV infection in South Africa was reported in 1982 and this heralded the start of the first wave of the HIV epidemic.
In 1990, Chris Hani, chief of the ANC guerilla force (known as ‘Spear of the Nation‘) said, ‘Those of us in exile are in the unfortunate situation of being in the areas where the prevalence is high. We cannot afford to allow the AIDS epidemic to ruin the realization of our dreams. Existing statistics indicate that we are still at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in our country. Unattended, however, this will result in untold damage and suffering by the end of the century.' Chris Hani was tragically assassinated shortly before democracy was achieved.
At times as we reflect back we will need to remind ourselves of the hard facts of intolerance, and ignorance but mostly importantly it will allow us to raise our collective voices as we remind ourselves of the accomplishments in the past 30 years, and to honour all those who have died from the disease.