Joint efforts needed to combat HIV/Aids
Researchers and people working in community-based organisations must join forces to stop the spread of HIV/Aids.
This was the gist of contributions at an HIV/Aids symposium hosted by Stellenbosch University (SU) at the Wallenberg Research Centre on the Stellenbosch campus on Friday, 17 August. The symposium, which formed part of SU’s bi-annual Science-meets-Society series, was organised by the Divisions for Research Development and Community Interaction at the University.
Prof Jean Nachega of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at SU said a key element in the fight against HIV/Aids is adherence to antiretroviral medicine. “Patients should get as much adherence to antiretroviral medicine as possible, and they should be given less tablets to reduce the burden of pills,” he said. Nachega added that every available tool should be used to maximise the impact of interventions that are aimed at adherence to antiretroviral treatment.
“A high level of adherence, a combination of drugs and monitoring the virus can help prevent resistance to antiretroviral drugs,” said Dr Gert van Zyl, also from SU’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.
Referring to the treatment of HIV/Aids in children, Prof Mark Cotton, a colleague of Nachega and Van Zyl, said a combination of antiretroviral medicine have saved the lives of many young infants. He highlighted the importance of early treatment in this regard.
“We need tools to identify which interventions have the biggest impact at a local level to improve implementation efficacy and sustainability,” added Dr Nelis Grobbelaar of ANOVA Health Institute. He mentioned the lack of programmes monitoring the number of people who not only get tested, but who also receive and stay on treatment.
While innovative research on HIV/Aids is being done, home-based care for people living with full-blown Aids does not receive the attention it deserves, argued Prof Amanda Gouws of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at SU. According to her, community caregivers, mostly women, are not respected by health professionals. Gouws said these women do not receive any recognition and remuneration for their work.