Cosatu special: HIV/AIDS

HIV/Aids – speaking with one voiceJenny Grice and Mlungisi Tikolo

The second day was a historic day: Napwa, TAC and government spoke the same language: “HIV causes Aids”, “You cannot separate nutrition from treatment and you cannot separate treatment from nutrition.”And all three speakers from these two organisations and government made the same commitment – “we will work together to overcome this national pandemic.”Then it was the turn of different people living with Aids to tell of their experiences.Lucky Mazibuko told delegates: “I lived with the virus for 16 years before I started with anti-retrovirals.””When I started on anti-retrovirals (ARVs) three months ago my CD4 count was at 81. Yesterday I was tested again. Now it is at 300. My viral load is undetectable! When I emphasise the issue of nutrition on the one hand and ARVs on the other, I speak from experience. We must make this distinction. I cannot survive on treatment alone. There is no way I can survive on nutrition alone!”
His words were echoed by deputy president of Popcru, Raba Mncaba. She disclosed to the hushed audience that she too was living with Aids and that ARVs had brought her back from near death.Mncaba quoted Indira Ghandi who said that “bravery does not mean absence of fear but to stand firm in the face of insurmountable odds.”She also said that views on Aids were like an “unclear weather forecast” and emphasised that all of us should fight to demystify these views. She pointed out that when G W Bush senior, the father of the US leadership dynasty was preparing for the 1st invasion of Iraq from Kuwait, he said that only “500 people will die as a result of the operation”. Yet 5000 people lost their lives after the Gulf invasion but he still insisted that his troops killed only 500 people and the rest died of fear. I suspect that she was prickling our consciences into action.

“HIV/Aids is not a silent war but an open war. It poses challenges to the gains that we have won in the country.” – Willie Madisha

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka speaks. Aubrey ka Saki

When the deputy-state president appeared, trade unionists and guests listened attentively as she delivered her menu.Being a parent herself, there was no way she could not touch this thing called Aids. Recklessness and not caring about the deadly existence of such a virus is also a fundamental issue that has got the South African society holding its breath. However, hunger, famine and poverty are factors that need to be addressed by the State. All these have a negative impact on the minds of hungry people. They turn any which way to survive, including to unprotected sex. Education must be used to conscientise such poor communities and make them aware of the dangers of unsafe sex.The worsening plight of the poor needs its budget improved, current initiatives are inadequate to alleviate the crisis. All interested parties, such as the NGOs and the private sector should be consulted to give their physical support as their institutions deal with a great deal of workers.The deputy-state president thanked the federation for its role in the alliance and argued for its continued existence.