Fast-Track Cities Conference 2023

The Fast Track Cities conference was held in Amsterdam, Netherlands, from September 25th to 27th, 2023. Originating in December 2014, the Fast-Track Cities partnership has grown to include more than 500 cities and municipalities committed to expediting their local responses to HIV, tuberculosis (TB), and viral hepatitis. Their aim is to attain the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.3 by 2030.

Over half of the world’s population resides in urban centres, where most individuals affected by HIV, TB, and related ailments reside. The risk of infection and susceptibility to HIV and TB often escalates in urban environments due to factors such as social connectivity, migration, unemployment, and pervasive social and economic disparities.

The conference featured an array of poster and oral presentations. A standout among these was a presentation highlighting the notable progress achieved in meeting HIV targets in Kyiv, amidst the Ukrainian conflict. Emergency funds and support from the Fast-Track Cities initiative facilitated the implementation of crucial interventions to assist those in dire circumstances, particularly among key and vulnerable populations like individuals who inject drugs and members of the LGBTQI+ community. Both testing rates and the number of individuals receiving antiretroviral therapy remained stable, showcasing the initiative’s positive impact.

TB HIV Care’s M&E Director Anje Pretorius presented a poster on Implementing Integrated Innovative Economic Strengthening Initiatives for AGYW in an HIV Prevention Programme in eThekwini, South Africa, while Mayor Kaunda received an Excellence Award for outstanding work in HIV response in eThekwini together with the cities of Berlin, Maputo, Phoenix in the US and Melbourne at the FTC Excellence Awards ceremony.

Abstracts and presentations can be found at Fast-Track Cities 2023 – International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (iapac.org)

Collaboration and Conversations: The Eastern Cape’s African Traditional Medicines (ATM) Day

On Wednesday, 6 September the Eastern Cape Department of Health hosted the African Traditional Medicines (ATM) Day in the Amathole district – an annual event that rotates from province to province.

This year’s theme was “The Contribution of Traditional Medicines to Holistic Health and Well-Being for All.”

For the past two decades, 31 August has been designated as African Traditional Medicine Day to honour the crucial role of traditional medicine in the health and well-being of generations of people on the continent, as recognised by the WHO Regional Office for Africa.

Various activities were organised in the lead-up to event. “Thuma Mina” campaigns were conducted on July 26th and 27th, whereby health services were taken directly to communities residing in remote areas. On 16 August, a dialogue event was held to facilitate conversations between traditional health practitioners, clinicians and communities about when to seek the help of a clinician.

This year’s event was attended by distinguished guests, including the Premier of the Eastern Cape, the MEC of Health, BRICS partners, the Mayor of Mbashe, the Provincial RPHC Director, and traditional health practitioners from across the province. Stakeholder Manager Mr Sandlana, Community Coordinator Asanda Jele, and the HTS testing team led by Sr Nqaba Bomvu represented TB HIV Care.

Launch of social ills campaign in eThekwini

On 31 August 2023, the TB HIV Care PPPrev Team joined the Deputy Minister of Health, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, at the launch of a new inter-departmental campaign in eThekwini. The campaign, led by the Department of Basic Education and supported by TB HIV Care, aims to end social ills such as violence, bullying, gender-based violence, learner pregnancy, and drug and substance abuse that ultimately affect adolescents and young people (AYP).

Presenters echoed the same sentiments, highlighting that teenage pregnancy remains a considerable challenge in KZN schools. The Deputy Minister cautioned that once adolescent girls begin menstruating, they can fall pregnant, urging learners to abstain from early sexual debut.

“There is no benefit in using drugs and alcohol; however, this can increase your vulnerability to rape or pregnancy. As young people, you should have a plan for your life to navigate school and, ultimately, your career and be able to contribute to the economy of this country. I encourage every learner to take charge of their future and health outcomes,” said Dhlomo.

According to the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), the high teenage pregnancy rate contributes to the high drop-out rate in schools, thus harming the mother and child’s health, education and socio-economic status.

The social ills campaign follows TB HIV Care’s PPPrev Team’s recent launch of the ‘0% Learner Pregnancy’ campaign in eThekwini and the upcoming radio campaign which will shine a spotlight on the issue – just some of the intensive campaigns that PPPrev eThekwini has embarked on to end teenage pregnancy in the district.