South African Children Affected by HIV/AIDS Speak at First National Children’s Meeting
South African children met in Cape Town last Friday for the first national conference of children with HIV/AIDS or with relatives living with the virus, the AP/Nando Times reports. The children, ages seven through 18, spoke about "being shunned by their peers, abandoned by their families," forced to leave school to care for infected family members, orphaned by the disease and "even blamed by health care workers" for becoming infected. South African society, which considers HIV a "shameful illness," has often "stigmatized" those with the virus. An estimated 4.7 million South Africans have tested positive for HIV, and the disease has orphaned 700,000 children in the country. AIDS activists have "lambasted" the South African government for promoting an "inconsistent policy" on fighting AIDS and for refusing to provide antiretroviral drugs through the public health system to HIV-positive pregnant women with HIV/AIDS. Dr. Nono Simelela, who heads the South African health department's AIDS program, told the children last Friday that the government "was doing the best it could," adding, "It's clear that more resources are going to be needed. As far as humanly possible, we are responding to these challenges, (but) the processes are slow" (Cohen, AP/Nando Times, 8/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.