HIV Prevention Summit – South Africa

By Marieta de Vos, Executive Director of Mosaic Training, Service & Healing Centre for Women

On August 20-21 2009 an HIV Prevention Summit was conducted by the Women’s Sector of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC). Many interesting presentations and discussions took place over the two days. Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe addressed the Summit and expressed Government’s commitment to women’s issues within the fight against HIV and AIDS. At the end of the Summit the UNGASS Forum’s work was acknowledged and all the participating organisations were urged to become involved in the process. The results of the summit will also be included in the updated South African report. The report of the summit has not been published yet but the following issues came out very strongly from the Women’s Sector:

–          Access to the female condom is still very limited and Government should be lobbied to open up the tender processes and procurement of this only female initiated method of protection. It has been shown as acceptable to significant numbers of women in rural and urban areas of SA. We should have positive political outspoken commitment for female condoms, strong demands from women’s organisations, diverse interventions for distribution, training of outreach workers, effective logistics and M&E.

–          Although there are prevention programmes for girls much more needed to be done in SA.

–          In terms of vertical transmission the health of the mother is extremely important and other services such as pap smears should be available

–          The Accelerated PMTCT Programme can be used to improve maternal health – actions to improve early ante-natal clinic booking rates are essential and making sure that positive mothers get HAART. The burden of disease in SA is massive, every year 300,000+ HIV positive pregnant women are coming through clinics.

–          We also need to focus prevention activities on pregnant women who have tested negative.

–          Unplanned pregnancies are huge in SA, we have to get improved SH&RH and family planning services. SA’s contraceptive policy should be overhauled, there are basically two methods that are available and this is not acceptable.

–          There are still many women that are not reached: those that do not access clinics at all before the birth, those that refuse VCT (Voluntary Counseling and Testing), those that receive a wrong reading – we have to look at the full picture.

–          When health workers do not receive their stipends from the Dept of Health there is a significant drop in pregnant women taking VCT , it is very important to ensure continuation of payment for health workers

–          A draft prevention strategy is being compiled by SANAC’s Prevention Technical Task Team based on UNAIDS’ “Know your epidemic, Know your disease” approach, will be ready for discussion in November

–          The Health Department said that the health system will have to be redesigned and that we will have to think beyond the NSP because many of its 2011 targets will not be reached. Also that primary health care should be improved.

–          In terms of rape and sexual assault – police services are not trained well enough on the Sexual Offences Act, there are still many problems. Training on administering PEP (Post Exposure Profilaxis) and follow-up of clients is essential. It is uncertain whether the designated facilities for PEP are working effectively, we need to look at indicators for measurement.

–          Microbicide and PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) trials are going on in SA. There is a need for more collaboration between these studies and the Women’s Sector especially with regard to preparation and implementation of trials.

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