Durban - UNAids talk about the end of Aids is “misleading and potentially irresponsible”, according to Section27 director Mark Heywood.
“We need to dispose of this notion of the end of Aids. We are nowhere near the end of Aids. We might be halfway there and there are dark clouds ahead,” Heywood said in Cape Town at the International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa this week.
“Sex workers are still criminalised. Gender violence is still high. So-called key populations including men who have sex with men and injecting drug users are under-served. Aids councils in many countries have become corrupt and this is a problem because they are often the gatekeepers to funds from the Global Fund,” said Heywood.
He accused UNAids of moving away from a human right approach to Aids to one that tried to portray Aids as “a worthy investment that will yield returns”.
“But there is no investment in men who have sex with men, sex workers and injecting drug users. There is no investment in advocacy or community mobilisation, and without this the accountability of governments will disappear,” warned Heywood.
Meanwhile, Nigerian activists interrupted a speech by the Nigerian Health Minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, accusing her of distributing substandard antiretroviral medicine that was not approved by the World Health Organisation to HIV positive Nigerians.
A tearful Ester Abimbola said she had travelled all the way to South Africa specifically to meet Chukwu because “this is the only way to get her attention”. Abimbola said she was taking the ARV Tyonex, but that it was making her vomit every day.
An activist who grabbed the microphone before Chukwu said there were 4 million Nigerians living with HIV but only 500 000 were on treatment “compared to South Africa which has 2.4 million people out of 5 million HIV positive people on treatment”.
Chukwu, who promised to meet the activists from the African Community Drug Board after the meeting, claimed that she was happy to see them “as all I have got from them is e-mails. They have never come to see me”.
Chukwu claimed that Tyonex was “a little bitter” but had no response to claims that it was a substandard drug.
Health-e News Service