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Going back to basic to fight AIDS

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First published on www.iol.co.za

South Africa and the world have won many battles in the fight against HIV/Aids, but the race for a cure and the war against the epidemic with its epicentre still in KwaZulu-Natal, are not yet over, writes Lyse Comins.

South Africa’s activists, NGOs, government officials and departments seem to have laid down their swords and stopped communicating constant messages of HIV/Aids prevention in taxis, on billboards and radio, in print media and in schools. This has rolled back some of th gains against stigma and behaviour changes in the fight against the disease in recent years.

But the slow-down in communication is only part of the problem which has contributed to an unacceptably high new infection rate among young people, with young women still most at risk of contracting the disease according to Professor Olive Shisana, local co-chairwoman of the upcoming International Aids Conference planned for this year.

Shisana, a leading public health expert who was the first director-general of the Department of Health in post-apartheid South Africa has expertise spanning from epidemiological studies of communicable diseases and HIV/Aids to health systems, quality and financing. Shisana highlighted the challenges in the fight against the disease and the victories of the country’s ARV treatment roll-out campaign which has led to a decline in the number of HIV/Aids related deaths since 2002.

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