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ABC of HIV and AIDS

South Africa is making progress in implementing its programme to fight HIV and Aids, but there are many challenges. Working together we can overcome the challenges of  HIV and Aids. 

United Nations

A special conference on HIV and Aids was held at this year’s United Nations General Assembly in New York. Representatives at the conference heard about progress in implementing South Africa’s comprehensive HIV and Aids programme. This programme focuses on how to prevent, treat and manage HIV and Aids.

Managing the disease 

The programme deals with actions to prevent and treat HIV and Aids mainly through:

  • Khomanani communication campaigns;
  • Giving out condoms;
  • Promoting voluntary counseling, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections;
  • distributing booklets that teach people about prevention and treatment; and 
  • Improving access to treatment for all HIV positive people, including pregnant women, children and TB patients.

Many challenges

Progress has been made in managing the disease, but there are many challenges. This includes a need for more trained people like doctors, pharmacists and social workers, especially in the rural areas.  To take care of this problem, government is implementing a plan to get people with the right skills to stay in health-care jobs, and to get doctors, nurses and other people to work in rural areas.  All the 53 health districts and 63 sub-districts in South Africa have at least one service point for HIV and Aids where patients can go for all kinds of help. 

Government is also putting aside more money for HIV and Aids. The amount has increased from R264 million in 2001 to R1,5 billion in 2005.

HIV and AIDS plan 

Some of the important functions of the HIV and Aids programme are to:

  • ensure that most of the people who are not infected with HIV stay uninfected; 
  • encourage people to follow the ABC rule – Abstain (from sex), Be faithful (to one partner) and
  • Condomise (always use a condom); 
  • provide antiretrovirals (ARVs), and
  • include traditional medicine into the treatment programme.

There is no cure for Aids yet. The best that the Aids management plan can do is to help people living with HIV and Aids to live longer and better lives. 

Not a life sentence 

A person can be infected with HIV, but not have Aids. Aids is the end stage of HIV infection. The immune system of an infected person becomes weak and unable to fight diseases like TB and pneumonia.  An infected person should have a balanced diet (including fruit), have enough rest, exercise regularly and keep stress levels low.  People living with HIV should always use a condom during sex to avoid infecting a partner with the disease or getting re-infected.  Remember, HIV infection is not a life sentence and one can live a normal life just like any other person as long as you take the necessary advice. 

Early treatment 

Sexually transmitted diseases can be prevented and some are easy to treat. Early treatment can cure and stop further infection. This includes infection from a pregnant mother to her unborn baby. It also prevents problems in other body parts like the anus, eyes, throat, vagina and penis.  All efforts to prevent sexually transmitted diseases are also efforts to prevent HIV infection. 

HIV and TB

It is important for a person living with HIV to be tested for TB. TB is curable even if a person is HIV positive. An HIV positive person who also has TB and is not on treatment will become sicker and weaker. If you have TB, you must take your treatment for six months and complete it. You will also be given medicines to prevent other diseases. - Ndivhuwo Khangale