Know your HIV status Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)
Cape Town - Hundreds of thousands of people continue to die from Aids because countries are still ill-equipped to detect and treat people suffering through advanced stages of the disease.

This is according to a new report released yesterday on World Aids Day by Doctors Without Borders, which said that delays in responding quickly to treatment failures and interruptions jeopardise progress in reducing HIV deaths. The report, No Time to Lose, spans 15 countries in Africa and Asia, and presents a dashboard of where countries are in terms of policies, implementation and funding to address advanced HIV, which killed 770 000 people worldwide last year.

“There is no way the world will reach the target of less than 500000 Aids deaths in 2020, without decisive action on dealing with retention to care, treatment interruptions and resulting mortality,” said MSF senior HIV adviser Dr Gilles van Cutsem.

“In the past, the very sick patients we saw were those who did not know they had HIV. Today we see more and more people who have been treated before, but stopped taking their medication and fell seriously ill, and people whose treatment stopped working.”

Deputy director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, UCT, Linda-Gail Bekker, said there is still a stigma attached to HIV/Aids. “One would think that 35 years on, now that we have treatments, it really is a chronic condition and people live as long as they've ever lived before, that this (stigma) would have got less or even gone away, but actually the stigma remains.”

In South Africa, young people face the fastest growing rates of HIV infection, with 39% of all new HIV infections occurring between the ages of 15 and 24. According to Professor Theresa Rossouw, of the University of Pretoria, South Africa has the largest HIV burden in the world - 20% of people living with the virus and 14% of those newly infected live in South Africa, despite it being home to only 0.76% of the world's population.

Rossouw said the largest proportion of new infections occur among women. Adolescent girls and young women between 15 and 24 years of age are particularly at risk.

The Western Cape Health Department said the province has made considerable progress in addressing HIV/Aids over the past 20 years with increased life expectancy and lowered HIV-related mortality rates.

According to the department the proportion of people living with HIV in the Western Cape is estimated at 8.9%.

The adoption and implementation of the UNAids 90-90-90 Strategy has strengthened the focus on HIV testing and treatment.

Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo said, “We call on all citizens of the Western Cape to recognise that HIV/Aids are chronic diseases, and that people living with HIV can have full and happy lives.

"We each have a responsibility to treat those who are struggling with an HIV-positive diagnosis with compassion, those struggling with Aids with care, and ourselves and our sexual partners with respect.”


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Cape Argus