On Saturday night, I attended a fundraiser for a children’s hospice called Iris House.
It is an NGO that cares for severely disabled and terminally ill children, and supports their families. At our cabinet meeting last week, we had agreed to lease, for a nominal amount, a dilapidated structure at one of our health facilities to Iris House, to assist them in their work.
The depth and effusiveness of their gratitude for the use of this small derelict house made me reflect, in some embarrassment, on how little government does for organisations that do the work we should be doing to support people who are unable to support themselves.
And that, inevitably, brought me full circle to thinking about how many billions we pour into treating preventable conditions, while angry activists, who have built whole industries on these issues, attack us for not doing enough.
Inevitably, I reflected on one of the world’s biggest conferences – the 20th International AIDS Conference – that was recently held in Melbourne, Australia.
The conference drew over 14 000 delegates from across the globe. Different sessions took place every hour in 20 venues, every day for four days. It was a conference of staggering proportions, attended by just about every AIDS expert in the world.
One of the main concerns expressed in media reports on the conference, was that AIDS might soon be considered “manageable” and would cease to attract the billions of dollars in funding that has been poured into research and treatment over two decades.
When it comes to state programmes, South Africa – and specifically the Western Cape – are at the forefront of global efforts, particularly in treatment and the prevention of mother-to-child transmission.
Many of us think that this is the hallmark of a successful AIDS policy. But, as long as the incidence of HIV infection keeps rising, it is in fact a reflection of its failure.
According to a report by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) released earlier this year, over 400 000 new infections occurred in South Africa in 2012. This now ranks us number one in HIV incidence in the world, with females experiencing far higher rates of infection than males.