'health BOSSES HAVE NO MANAGERial know-how'

Bongani Mthembu

Bongani Mthembu

Most senior managers in the health department are political appointees with no managerial experience, experts told an Aids conference in Durban on Tuesday.

"The research we did revealed that between 50 and 60percent of senior managers have never been exposed to management. They are just employed because of political party affiliation," Dr Gustaaf Wolvaardt said at a media briefing on the fourth SA Aids Conference.

Wolvaardt is the director of the Foundation for Professional Development, a private institution established by the SA Medical Association in 1997.

The three-day conference, with 4142 delegates from 52 countries, started on Tuesday at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli convention centre and was officially opened by Deputy President Baleka Mbete. Ninety-five sessions are expected to be held during the conference.

Health expert Professor Hoosen Coovadia said there was a need to stop talking and deal with the HIV virus which claims thousands of lives in SA yearly.

South Africa was experiencing one of the most severe Aids epidemics in the world. At the end of 2007, there were about 5,7million people with HIV in SA.

"We do not have the infrastructure, the nurses and doctors to roll out our HIV treatment properly. I thought that when we won democracy we would have resources.

"We have more funds compared to other countries but our past has not been good," Coovadia said.

While concerns were raised about SA's failure to effectively deal with the issue of HIV-Aids in the past 10 years, most delegates were optimistic that there were signs that the country was moving in the right direction.

In the past, delegates said, many government leaders, including the previous minister of health Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, were not committed to fighting the HIV pandemic.

Tshabalala-Msimang, who touted garlic, olive oil and beetroot over antiretrovirals, was replaced by Barbara Hogan who was passionate about dealing with HIV hands-on.

"Our past has been sad because there was less delivery. I strongly believe that the future now looks good because there is a lot of energy in our people to work together," said Professor Linda Bekker, chairperson of the conference.

"There have been signs of movement which makes me believe that we can make a dent in fighting HIV," said Bekker, who is also chief executive of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine at the University of Cape Town.

She said the biggest challenge was to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission and to expand ARV rollout to HIV patients.

Mbete commended the 16-year-old Aids activist Luyanda Ngcobo who had addressed the conference earlier.

Ngcobo was born HIV-positive in KwaZulu-Natal and is on antiretroviral treatment.

"We are lucky to have a teenager like Luyanda," said Mbete.

She said that the government was committed to fighting the pandemic.

"Despite having achieved in setting-up strategies, we still have a huge challenge as we are treating only half of the people infected with HIV," she said. - Sapa