HIV prevention key in quest to avert pandemic

THE regrettable fact that the majority of people with HIV can be found in Southern Africa is indeed a vexing to the spirit.

THE regrettable fact that the majority of people with HIV can be found in Southern Africa is indeed a vexing to the spirit.

So there is absolutely no doubt that our major challenge or priority should be prevention.

Many years ago, in 1999, I attended an International Conference of People Living with HIV-Aids in Poland. I had just presented my paper when the issue of prevention was raised by a member of the audience.

"Which would you say are the three critical issues that have to be addressed as a matter of urgency in Africa," I was asked with unnerving anticipation from the delegates.

I rose from my roving chair in front of the podium in a packed auditorium. I took a deep breath, had a sip of water, positioned my glasses and replied with conviction and confidence.

"Prevention! Prevention! Prevention!" I roared assuredly.

There was a standing ovation from the more than 3000 delegates in the auditorium.

It made me feel hopeful and confident. The positive spring in my step was more balanced because I thought there would be a mind shift and a realisation that prevention was a key priority in our collective quest to avert the prevalent scourge of HIV.

Sadly, almost 10 years later the element of prevention is only surfacing now after research teams have gone through the whole of Africa, probably wasting millions of dollars on an issue that has always been so obvious that even a blind person could see it.

The Soul City Institute Regional Programme has confirmed what all of us and everyone else were advocating in the late 1990s and put on paper the insightful results of a study that covered 10 countries in Southern Africa.

The research explores subjects such as the forms of multiple concurrent partnerships and also the stated reasons why people engage in the type of relationship that is almost always clouded in devastating secrecy and other obvious consequences.

Well, there is no reason to throw in the glove, excuse the pun. I just feel that a lot of time, effort and resources are wasted on delayed responses and interventions owing to the red tape and protocol that must be followed, particularly at governmental levels, all over the world.

A simple, creative and impact-driven idea can take months and even years to be rejected, not because it's a bad but pathetically because it is not in line with a policy of some sort.

This is precisely the primary reason why our interventions seem so useless and outdated - because they happen a decade after they were suggested.

In simple terms, governments, civil society and business urgently need to synchronise their visions, solutions and mechanisms in order for society to benefit timeously.