Prevent HIV/AIDS infection

Published: 19 Apr, 2015

The world’s painful journey of dealing with HIV and AIDS throughout the 20th century is finally beginning to see significant positive change. Thanks to millions of people’s humanitarian and medical efforts, an AIDS-free generation is within our sights.

A critical advancement has been in preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, as rates of new infections have greatly declined in babies in low- and middle-income countries. However, the same progress has not yet been made for children already living with the disease, and the rate of AIDS deaths in adolescents is alarming.

One center in South Africa is dedicating itself to these vulnerable adolescents at the epicenter of the country’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, and infection rates are indeed dropping. It is located a rural community with one of the highest infection rates in the country, Vulindlela in Kwazulu Natal Province. Community leaders recall the pain they have witnessed in this epicenter for the disease, sometimes have to hold 10 or more funerals a day.
Things finally began to turn around when the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) opened a clinic and research facility in Vulindlela community in 2001. The center began preventing transmission and saving lives as a result of direct treatment, support groups and community education. The support group provides a safe environment where adolescents can open up to one another – discussing their past and their hopes for the future, as well as issues surrounding sex, gender and HIV/AIDS.

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Dr. Ayesha Kharsany, Senior Scientist at CAPRISA explains “What we aspire to do is to understand the epidemic … [so that] we are able to tailor our responses. When we look at how we prevent new HIV infections and … where those new infections are occurring, we know that we have to work with adolescents.”

CAPRISA’s multi-faceted approach in Vulindlela aims to combat the region’s complex issues head-on. The community’s adolescents are faced with 70% unemployment and little opportunity for the future. In such a disadvantaged community, delivering comprehensive, proactive care can be a challenge.

By working with citizens and community leaders hands-on, CAPRISA is able to stay in touch with shifts in the epidemic and in the adolescent population, gaining knowledge that enables optimal mixing and matching of interventions to prevent new infections.

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