We are going to shake the government, our government, we are going to shake the United Nations Aids Programme… we are going to make them all recognise that they must stop being complacent and just using clever words and clever terms and get this epidemic under control.’

Mark Heywood, Treatment Action Campaign and Section 27

Access / Equity / Rights / Now!

A Special Assignment Investigation

It is sixteen years since the global conference on Aids in Durban galvanised the world into dealing effectively with the spread of the pandemic that was ravaging Africa. At the conference, Nelson Mandela described Aids as “…one of the greatest threats humankind has faced”. It was also at this conference that the WHO Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, first called for a global fund to fight AIDS and to provide the continent with access to life-saving drugs.

This Wednesday July 20th, Special Assignment broadcasts Access / Equity / Rights / Now!, a report to coincide with the 2016 International Aids Conference, again held in Durban. The return of hundreds of AIDS researchers, scientists and activists highlights how radically South Africa’s outlook has changed since the 2000 conference.

Today, South Africa is a global proving ground for treatment and prevention, it boasts the largest HIV drug treatment programme in the world. Life expectancy, which sank as the epidemic grew, has rebounded from 57.1 years in 2009 to 62.9 years in 2014. Massive strides have been made in almost eliminating the transmission of HIV from mother to child.

As activists and experts meet again in Durban, they have issued stark warnings that the progress made since 2000 is not enough to end the epidemic. Antiretroviral drugs have allowed many to survive, but there are 36.7 million people worldwide living with HIV and Aids, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa. Of these, only 17 million are receiving treatment. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 2 000 young people under the age of 24 are newly infected every single day, almost half of the people living with HIV are undiagnosed. There is mounting anxiety that the epidemic may slip out of control once more, due to complacency, risky sexual behavior and a significant decrease in funding to combat the disease.

In this week’s episode, Special Assignment meets with some of the stalwarts of the AIDs struggle, including scientists and activists who urge the country not to rest on its laurels, lest all the hard-earned gains made in HIV in sub-Saharan Africa over the last 15 years be reversed.

Access / Equity / Rights / Now! will be broadcast in our new slot,

Wednesday nights @ 21h30 on SABC3.