Stop pussy-footing around this virus

The rising tide of HIV infections appears to be ebbing.

The rising tide of HIV infections appears to be ebbing.

For the first time, last year's survey of pregnant women at government hospitals showed a slightly lower incidence of HIV, from 30,2percent in 2005 to 29,1percent last year.

Health Minister Manto Tshbalala-Msimang told parliament last week that there had been a "significant" drop in the prevalence of HIV among pregnant women.

Maybe not. Statisticians note that the margin of error in these surveys is greater than the 1,1percentage point difference between the years.

But in this all-out war we should acknowledge all victories, however minor.

Whatever the details, almost one-third of our pregnant women are infected with HIV. Even the best treatment in the world cannot save their lives or the lives of those children they infect.

Surely the time has come to ignore social stigma and confront Aids as a medical condition no different from any other.

Syphilis, leprosy, tuberculosis and smallpox once ravaged populations across the world the way Aids is now laying waste to our people.

They were conquered by all-out medical campaigns. But we joined our battle with this virus only after independence in 1994 conscientised by a culture of human rights.

We allowed this monster virus to spread as we debated social stigma and rights.

Enough already. It's time to take off the gloves and take on this enemy as the serious medical threat it is without being constrained by social niceties.

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