It is our experience that there has, for many years, been a critical gap when it comes to information available about what HIV/AIDS-related services are available and where they are located. Knowing that there are in fact countless HIV-related initiatives in South Africa with skills, expertise and the will to make a difference in the struggle we fight daily against HIV/AIDS, the Centre for HIV/AIDS Networking (HIVAN) decided to do something about this. The result is HIV-911 Programme.
The lack of political will has long been a barrier to HIV prevention work in South Africa - from the Viramune debacle to a denialist Presidency and two successive incompetent Ministries of Health.
As the AIDS death toll reached an estimated 2 500 000 in June this year, civil society is faced with what could very well be one of our biggest advocacy challenges of the next few years – that of universal access to the female condom.
South African youth have “got the message” regarding the need for HIV prevention. What continues to drive the epidemic, however, is not their disregard of the message, but rather their response to their circumstances. Many young people who leave school face an uncertain future and feel excluded from opportunity. And not surprisingly, half the lifetime risk of HIV infection among young women is crammed into just five years after leaving school .
People often say that they are scared to know their HIV status. Why? There are three common reasons given: I’d rather not know that I am going to die – what’s the point of knowing anyway? I’m scared others will find out and stigmatize me. If I know I have HIV, I have to tell my partner. I can’t do that – they will blame me.
A Victory for Civil Society Activism
Sipho Mathathi, Secretary General of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), victoriously holds up her fist at the National Civil Society HIV and AIDS Prevention and Treatment Congress, a watershed event marking a dramatic change in government’s outlook in dealing with the treatment of HIV and AIDS, after sustained civil society lobbying and advocacy.