Progress on the AIDS front
Day 2 of the 4th South African AIDS Conference in Durban started with some exciting, but highly scientific papers which were read. After twenty five years there is still no sign of a cure for HIV or AIDS, but Professor Bruce Walker from the Harvard Medical School shared exciting news on progress that has been made while trying to find out why a small number of people who are HIV-positive seem to keep on living normally even though they are not using any medication. I didn’t follow everything he said, but it seems that there are certain cells in the blood of a small number of HIV-positive people that could perhaps be duplicated and given to people who do not have a natural resistance against the virus. It’s a bit presumptuous of me to even try and summarise what he said, but what I followed was that there may be a faint light shining somewhere in the distance. At the same time, I realise (and I think that everyone should realise this) that this does not mean that AIDS is not going to continue to be a catastrophic problem for many years to come. And even then the question remains whether this research will necessarily lead to a cure for AIDS.
Professor Wafaa El Sadar presented a paper on the five key priorities that is needed to scale up the fight against HIV. She identified the following priorities:
- Multi-disciplinary teams need to come together to contribute towards the fight
- There needs to be a focus on the family instead of only on the infected person
- Quality of programs need to be stepped up
- Focus needs to be placed on prevention rather than on treatment
- Healthcare systems need to be improved
She mentioned the terrible paradox which came out in an earlier AIDS conference: “Drugs are most abundant in countries where infections are least prevalent.” And the same applies to medical personnel. She mentioned the statistics of a few countries, amongst them Swaziland, which has only 18 doctors and 320 nurses/midwives per 100000 people.
This, of course, is something which we have realised long ago, becoming one of the reasons why we opted to start with home-based caring when we decided to get personally involved with those infected with HIV and AIDS in Swaziland. There’s much more to do and we are actually looking at ways to involve ourselves in other terrains as well, but in a country where most people cannot be hospitalised and will have to die at their homes, we can at least help people to live and die with greater dignity.
Three other sessions I attended today was about the “A-Z on proposal writing” (very good), “How to understand scientific papers and apply this in policy” (also good) and “AIDS statistics and how to tell good science from bad” which was interesting up to a point after which a fairly dull topic became even worse! I tried to concentrate as I really want to use this information for an article which I’m busy writing, but the last 30 minutes was torture!
I’m excited about tomorrow’s plenary session which includes a paper on “HIV prevention – scaling down on partners.” What the contents of the paper will be, I will have to wait and see, but hopefully the presenter will say what needs to be said about this topic. I hope I’m not disappointed.
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This is a blog where I would like to share some of my ideas about contemporary mission. I have more than 25 years experience as a full-time missionary in Swaziland, have done a PhD on the theology of mission – specifically on the relationship between mission and eschatology – and am presently specialising in the problem of HIV/AIDS and how the church should approach this problem. You are welcome to respond and share your ideas on this blog.
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