South Africa Makes Improvement On Its Fights Against HIV, Aids
In the early ’90s when South Africa’s Themba Lethu clinic could only treat HIV/AIDS patients for opportunistic diseases, many would come in on wheelchairs and keep coming to the health center until they died.
Two decades later, the clinic is the biggest anti-retroviral, or ARV, treatment center in the country and sees between 600 to 800 patients a day from all over southern Africa. Those who are brought in on wheelchairs, sometimes on the brink of death, get the crucial drugs and often become healthy and are walking within weeks.
“The ARVs are called the ‘Lazarus drug’ because people rise up and walk,” said Sue Roberts who has been a nurse at the clinic , run by Right to Care in Johannesburg’s Helen Joseph Hospital, since it opened its doors in 1992. She said they recently treated a woman who was pushed in a wheelchair for 3 kilometers to avoid a taxi fare and who was so sick it was touch and go. Two weeks later, the woman walked to the clinic, Roberts said.
According to the latest UNAIDS report, such stories of hope and progress are readily available on World AIDS Day 2012 in sub-Saharan Africa where deaths from AIDS-related causes have declined by 32 percent from 1.8 million in 2005 to 1.2 million in 2011.
As people around the world celebrate a reduction in the rate of HIV infections, the growth of the clinic, which was one of only a few to open its doors 20 years ago, reflects how changes in treatment and attitude toward HIV and AIDS have moved South Africa forward.