28 February 2012

HIV and AIDS: Stigma, denial, exclusion and discrimination

In the 2007-2011 National Strategic Plan on HIV, AIDS and TB, the South African National AIDS Council, identified key priority areas to tackle the HIV and AIDS epidemic, the focus areas are(1)Prevention, (2)Treatment, Care and Support (3) Research, Monitoring and Evaluation and (4)Human rights and Access to Justice.

Through this elaborate plan, Most at Risk Populations (MARPs) are identified include; Men who Have Sex with Men (MSM), along with Mother to Child Transmission (PTMC). The document also speaks to programming that needs to be developed using the 4 key areas as a guide to a complete multi-disciplinary effort to tackle the epidemic.

However, in materials released through the Promotion of Access to Information Act, by the Department of Health, details of priority MARPs programming are visible, with the exception of MSM specific programs. Such successes have been lauded by the health minister to the president, for having reduced the infection rate in PTMC infections. In contrast to the stark reality of there being between 20% and 50% HIV prevalence rate among MSM, there needs to be the political will to fight the infection rate among the MSM population.

"...HIV infection amongst MSM was a focus in the early phases of the epidemic in
South Africa there is very little currently known about the HIV epidemic amongst MSM in the country. MSM have also not been considered to any great extent in national HIV and AIDS interventions. Biologically, MSM who practice receptive anal intercourse have an elevated risk for HIV infection..."

By SANAC's own admission through the statement above, it is clear that the HIV scourge in the MSM community has and is still not receiving the necessary attention it deserves, by show of lack of government interventions.
Through the South African National AIDS Council, a task team was formed in an effort to address this but very little, if anything, has been achieved.

Borrowing from the document, "A clear understanding of the nature, dynamics, and character of an epidemic is critical in informing strategies that should be reviewed and adapted to fit local conditions" this includes incorporating MSM in government programming.

For more information contact the Freedom of Information Programme.