The below newsletter was sent to me way back in December 2012. Doesn’t time fly. I marked to read later. I really enjoy Justin Foxton’s e-mails as they are honest, constructive and often offer simple ways that I can do something to make a difference. Today I read this and I had to share. It is a long time since I recall feeling so proud of my country and amazingly I think. YES!! There had to be something more happening in the Zuma Presidency than just the negative view so many of us are focused on seeing. I have come to see it is almost alway true. There is more happening in any situation than what I see or believe.
So while it is a little cheeky sharing a newsletter as a blogpost. I wanted to put it out there, shout it from a mountain top. Look at what our government with it’s many flaws is getting right!! I also notice that linking to the article is a few powerful insights into emotions. The shame of having HIV/Aids, the pride in now being a survivor and living well with the disease. The outrage required to ensure we make changes that need to happen. How magnificent when we navigate our emotions successfully to take constructive action. To recognize something has to change, to support and guide people or to be grateful or pleased when something has shifted positively.
Thank you Justin for showing us a little more of the whole picture of what our government is up. What do you experience when your read this newsletter?
This article first appeared in the Mercury on Monday 10th December
As evening fell, we gathered for our end-of-day debrief and prayers in our home for abandoned babies. My wife suggested a slight variation on the norm; for each of us to share something that we were thankful for.
After a few awkward minutes I began by saying that I was grateful for my family; for my wife, our daughter and her granny. Before I had even finished, my wife’s face lit up and she declared: “I am thankful that it is the 1stof December and that in 24 days time, it will be Christmas!”
The two carers on duty looked slightly skeptical about the whole exercise. But after a while they both had an idea which they excitedly made to speak at the same time: “I am grateful that it is the 1stDecember – World AIDS day – and that I am alive,” said the one. The other lady smiled a big smile and simply said: “Me too.”
These women – healthy, happy, energetic and working – represent the new face of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. They are two of millions that now simply manage a chronic illness on a daily basis in much the same way as people have come to manage diabetes or asthma.
When we first met these women, they would not talk about their status. It took months for them to do the necessary tests and even then their denial was absolute. The stark reality of a lifetime on medication was a bitter pill neither wished to swallow.
Now, just two years on, they live comfortably with the condition. They take their medication, they do the necessary clinic visits and we can talk openly with them about the disease. Before writing this piece I asked them if they were happy for me to mention them and their stories of thanksgiving. I did this with trepidation given the secrecy of the past. To my enormous surprise they both gladly – even proudly – gave their consent. How far we have come in exactly 3 years!
It was World Aids Day 2009 when President Jacob Zuma announced sweeping and radical reforms in the detection, prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS; more clinic facilities would be established, more nursing staff would be trained, and a massive roll out of antiretroviral drugs (ARV’s) would be undertaken. He also announced a highly ambitious programme to test 15 million people for HIV over the following three years. The prevention of mother to child transmission treatment programmes would be significantly ramped up giving pregnant mother’s access to ARV’s and the CD4 count under which treatment would commence was raised from 200 to 350.
Fast forward to 1December 2012 and we have achieved something that is virtually unheard of anywhere in the world; life expectancy in South Africa has increased from 54 to 60 in just three short years.
In this case, government has not only fulfilled the promises made by the President in 2009, it has seemingly exceeded them. According to Minister of Health Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi the following results have been achieved; health facilities dispensing ARV’s have increased from 450 in 2009 to 3000 today. In 2009 there were 250 nurses nationwide qualified to dispense ARV’s. Now there are 10 000. The aim of completing 15 million HIV tests in 3 years was exceeded; we tested 20 million citizens. There has been a massive 25% reduction in child and infant mortality during this short period. We have had first hand evidence of this as 100% of the babies who have come to The Baby House over the past 2 years have left us alive and well – all HIV negative.
Looking forward, there is still much work to be done, but the introduction of a triple fixed-dose combination tablet which combines three pills – tenofovir, emtricitabine, and efavirenz – will dramatically improve compliance and drive treatment costs down further. This means more people will take the treatment more readily. Take a bow Dr. Motsoaledi and your team.
Such success over a scourge that, until recently, was branded intractable or even unsolvable begs the question; if we can do this with HIV/AIDS why not with such issues as crime, poverty, unemployment and education?
The answer is – we can, if we employ some of the strategies we have used in the fight against HIV/AIDS:
– Appointment of the right people to positions of leadership (a doctor of medicine heading up the ministry of health is quite a good idea don’t you think?)
– Political will and combined action from all parties
– Effective partnerships between government and civil society organizations
– The active participation of citizens
The final key ingredient to the kind of success we have seen with HIV/AIDS is outrage. Until we express and act upon a sense of collective outrage at the status quo – as we did with the scourge of HIV/AIDS and the Mbeki administrations backward stance on the disease – we will remain inert and flaccid; watching idly as our nation goes up in smoke.
For more on how to get involved go to www.sayhello.co.za