HIV/Aids is among the biggest challenges facing sub-Saharan Africa in the last 30 years, but the worldwide response is testament to human resilience and the power humankind can harness when we work together towards a common goal.
The UNAIDS World Aids Day 2016 report showed encouraging signs: the number of people accessing HIV treatment in sub-Saharan Africa reached 54%, compared to a global average of 46%. However, several million people still don’t have access to treatment.
There are also numerous other developments in Africa to cheer about. Mother Nature has offered a helping hand in South Africa, where a group of children seem to have developed natural immunity to HIV infection. These “HIV non-progressors” will never develop Aids even if HIV enters their bodies. Understanding how their bodies repel the virus could contribute to a successful vaccine.
Another promising development relates to a new South Africa-based vaccine trial. Results from an earlier trial in Thailand showed a 31% effectiveness rate against the virus, though there are hopes that this could rise to above 50% in the new one - effective enough to make a profound impact.
However, even simple educational initiatives can make a big difference; In Mozambique, the Coalizao Youth Centre enables schoolchildren and adults to find answers to their HIV- and sexual health-related queries by texting them to a free SMS platform. Manned by ten qualified counsellors who answer questions such as, “Will having sex with a virgin cure me of HIV?” and “Do condoms transmit HIV?” the initiative shows just how critical education is in curbing the virus’s infection rate.
Most important, though, is the ongoing rollout of ARV therapies. The Global Aids Update 2016 report estimated that 17 million people were accessing life-saving ARVs at the end of 2015. In South Africa, 3.4 million people had access to treatment. This reduced Aids-related deaths from 1.5 million in 2010 to 1.1 million worldwide in 2015.
Year on year, the statistics improve, showing that we are winning this fight. As the bank that views Africa as our home, we will always drive the continent's progress in all relevant fields, including community outreach and development. As Africa wins, we win, and so we look forward to each New Year that brings more good news concerning the global effort for health and healthcare.