2015 News

World Conference on Lung Health meets in Cape Town

In the first week of December, the 46th World Conference on Lung Health met in Cape Town and TB/HIV Care found itself at the centre of many of the conference activities.

For the first time the conference included a unique community space called the ‘Imbizo’. Intended as a space accessible to all where communities involved in the fight for lung health could come together for discussion, support, learning and inspiration, the Imbizo was a vibrant space. TB Alliance facilitated the painting of a mural including messages of support for the fight against TB in children, a National Health Laboratory Health Service van with a GeneXpert and a TB/HIV Care X-Ray truck were on site to provide TB screening, an indoor soccer pitch helped spread Kick TB/HIV’s messaging and sessions and workshops were organised around a variety of topics.

The Imbizo, with the tagline ‘Your space, my space and our space’, was a collaborative effort organised by a local community committee including Aurum, TB Proof, TAC, Living Hope, AERAS, Western Cape Department of Health, Sonke Gender Justice, Section 27, Mothers2mothers, and Grassroots Soccer. As the lead local co-ordinating organisation, TB/HIV Care convened the organising committee.

On the 3rd of December, a march of 1500 people was organised to rally support for increased investment in TB, particularly in research and development of new diagnostics and treatments. After meeting in Keizergracht Street, the marchers sang and danced their way to the Cape Town International Conference Centre, where a memorandum was handed over to the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.

TB/HIV Care’s work was presented in a number of workshops and symposia within the conference itself. TB/HIV Care’s work in correctional services was a particular focus. It was covered during a session looking at novel strategies to end TB where TB/HIV Care’s work to increase TB case-detection and decrease time to treatment was presented as well as in a session co-ordinated by TB/HIV Care CEO, Prof Harry Hausler, and chaired by Mark Dybul, the Executive Director of the Global Fund; “Partnerships between government the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and civil society to end TB and HIV in vulnerable populations in South Africa”.

On the final day of the conference, a lively session which focused on key populations ‘speaking out’ was convened by Prof Hausler and was a highlight for many who attended since the lived experience of those who have survived TB was acknowledged.

See photographs of the conference here

Our TB/HIV Care activities can also be viewed on Facebook

Beyond Red Ribbons: What you need to know this World AIDS Day

For an organisation that works in the field of HIV every day, World AIDS Day can descend like a double-edged sword. On this one day, the attention of media houses, politicians, government departments and businesses focuses sharply on HIV. Our mobile teams are booked up months in advance and we hussle and strain to meet the massive demand for our services at community events and workplaces. This is good. Of course it is. We hope it means that more people are being reached with messages about how to stay healthy, and are accessing the services that will help them to achieve that. But with all this rush and hype, it is easy to become overwhelmed and to miss some of the key issues of the moment. We’ve selected a few highlights and debates (some light-hearted) as a quick guide to HIV in 2015.

‘Test and treat’ or ‘Treat all’:
It sounds simple, but it could be revolutionary. The idea of treating people who are diagnosed with HIV as soon as they are diagnosed instead of waiting until their CD4 count drops to a certain level doesn’t sound like a big change, but it could be. Treating people living with HIV with antiretrovirals sooner rather than later means they stay healthier, and they are also much, much less likely to transmit the virus to others. This is a WHO recommendation as of September this year.

Treatment as prevention:
This is a similar concept to ‘test and treat’; it suggests that providing people with antiretroviral treatment is, in itself, a form of prevention. This is because ARVs lower a person’s viral load to the point where it is very difficult for transmission of HIV to take place. A study cited in aUNAIDS report showed that in one community in KwaZulu-Natal where ARV coverage was 30-40%, a person was 38% less likely to be infected with HIV than in a similar community where coverage was only 10%.

What if you could take a pill that could prevent HIV? Well, you can. It’s called pre-exposure prophylaxis or PreP. It’s not a vaccine because you are only protected for as long as you take the one pill a day. TB/HIV Care’s AVAC fellow, John Mutsambi, has been advocating for the roll-out of PreP for young and vulnerable women. You can read more about this here and here

90 90 90
This is a strategy proposed by UNAIDS one of the strategies to end the AIDS epidemic. It aims to ensure that 90% of people living with HIV know their status by 2020 (so testing people is really important here), to ensure that 90% of people living with HIV receive antiretroviral treatment by 2020 (linking people to care after diagnosis is important here), and to ensure that 90% of those on ARVs are virally suppressed by 2020 (keeping people in care will be important here).

Fast-Tracking and Front-loading Investments:
The UNAIDS launched its World AIDS Day Report today announcing its strategy to reach the new Sustainable Development Goal of ending AIDS by 2030. This strategy includes focusing on the people most affected by HIV and on the locations where they are. The strategy calls for ‘front-loading’ investments in these locations and on services aimed as these populations instead of spreading the investment over a greater percentage of the population in a larger area.

Condom Emojis
What’s that now? Durex has launched a campaign to ask people to call for a condom emoji to be developed. What’s an emoji? Those little pictures you can insert on your phone when texting … or sexting. Durex believes the emoji will make it easier to talk (or chat) about safer sex. You can join the campaign by mentioning #CondomEmoji as much as possible on your social media feeds. Happy, safe tweeting! Read more here.

Tribute to Maria ‘Ria’ Cornelia Grant

It was with profound sadness that TB/HIV Care learnt that our beloved Senior Advisor, Ria Grant, passed away on Tuesday, 17 November. She died peacefully while she was in frail care. Her husband, Richard, was by her side.
Ria was a wonderful person who touched everyone she met with her positive energy, good humour and caring nature. She was an inspiring mentor to many and will be missed by all who knew and worked with her.
Ria joined TB Care Association as a case worker in 1976, rose to the position of Director in 1992 and helped build the organisation into a leading South African TB NGO. In 2008, she helped guide and implement the transformation of the organisation into one that also addressed HIV – TB/HIV Care Association.
Ria joined The Global Fund to Fight AIDS/HIV, TB and Malaria’s Developing Country NGO Delegation in 2009, became the African Regional Communications Focal Point in 2010 and the Lead Communications Focal Point from 2012 to 2014.  She was a strong advocate for TB and community systems strengthening at local, national and international levels.
The world has lost a great leader who cared for people with TB and their families for almost 40 years of her life. Her life should give us strength and resolve to end TB within the next 40 years.
‘Umthi omkhulu uwile’ 
‘A big tree has fallen’
Those who wish to pay Ria tribute are welcome to post messages on our facebook page. We will be collecting them to present to her family.