Daily Archives: December 1, 2015

Population Services International And UNITAID Launch The Largest Effort Ever To Catalyze HIV Self-Testing In Africa

In advance of World AIDS Day, Population Services International (PSI) and UNITAID team up in a two-year project that will scale up HIV self-testing in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

WASHINGTON, and HARARE, Zimbabwe, Nov. 30, 2015 / PRNewswire – Today, on the eve of World AIDS Day, PSI joined UNITAID, the World Health Organization and ministry of health officials from Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe to launch the UNITAID/PSI HIV Self-Testing Africa (STAR) Project at the 18th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA).

UNITAID/PSI HIV Self-Testing Africa (STAR) Project

Logo – http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20151130/291663LOGO
Logo – http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20151130/291662LOGO

The largest evaluation of HIV self-testing (HIVST) in Africa to date, the two-year $23 million UNITAID/PSI pilot project is being implemented in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and University College London. It will generate crucial information about how to deliver HIVST, how to generate HIVST demand and the potential public health impact of HIVST.

At the launch, government health officials, affected populations, donors, implementers and researchers highlighted how the project can contribute to the global effort to achieve UNAIDS’s 90/90/90 treatment targets set for 2020. The ambitious targets call on the global community to ensure that 90% of people living with HIV know their status, 90% of people with diagnosed HIV infection receive sustained antiretroviral therapy (ART), and 90% of those individuals on ART achieve viral suppression.

“It is estimated that less than 50% of adults living with HIV know their status; this is particularly true for high-burden countries,” says Dr. Karin Hatzold, Project Director of UNITAID/PSI STAR Project. “Through our joint project with UNITAID, we can promote self-testing to better reach people with limited access to current HIV testing services due to privacy issues or lack of convenience. It can also encourage re-testing among those at high risk.”

UNITAID/PSI HIV Self-Testing (STAR) Project Consortium

The STAR Project is designed to reach populations particularly in rural and peri-urban areas. In Zimbabwe and Malawi, key target groups will also include female sex workers and men who have sex with men. Nearly 750,000 HIV self-test kits will be distributed across these three countries. The kits will allow individuals to test themselves using an oral swab, at a time and location convenient to them, and provide results within minutes.

OraSure Technologies’ advanced OraQuick HIV Self Test, a rapid test that uses a simple oral fluid swab, has been selected for the research conducted in the STAR project.

“While HIV self-test products have been approved for use in the US, France and the UK, there are currently no HIV rapid diagnostic test (RDTs) for HIV Self-testing that are WHO pre-qualified and HIVST remains uncommon on the African continent,” points out UNITAID Operations Director Robert Matiru. “The STAR Project aims to address policy and market entry barriers for HIVST and increase access and informed demand for HIV Self-Testing in Africa. By addressing specific social and market barriers to self-testing, it will inform policy and programming decisions at both national and global levels.”

PSI heads the STAR consortium, in close collaboration with the World Health Organization. Research activities will be designed and led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and University College London. PSI leads implementation of HIVST distribution in each country; in-country research activities will be led by local research institutions Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme, ZAMBART, and the Centre for Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Research Zimbabwe.

PSI is a leading global health organization working in HIV, reproductive health, child survival, non-communicable diseases and sanitation. Partnering with the public sector and harnessing the power of markets, PSI provides life-saving products, services and communications that empower vulnerable populations to lead healthier lives.


  • Robert Matiru, Operations Director, UNITAID, Geneva
  • Dr. Rachel Baggaley, HIV Department, WHO, Geneva
  • Dr. Karin Hatzold, Project Director, UNITAID/PSI HIV Self-Testing (STAR), Population Services International
  • Dr. Owen Mugurungi, Director of AIDS and TB Unit, Ministry of Health and Child Care of Zimbabwe

Govt, NGO partner to educate children in Diepsloot

Johannesburg: Officials on Tuesday took to the bustling township of Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg, to teach the residents about child safety and where to get help.

The township has in recent times seen a high number of child abuse and negligence cases and violence against women.

This prompted the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services and the National Children and Violence Trust (NCVT) to commemorate World Aids Day and the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign in the area.

NCTV senior social worker, Judith Mthombeni, who works closely with the community, on Tuesday said her organisation provides counselling to survivors of gender-based violence and child abuse.

The challenge for Diepsloot, said Mthombeni, is that it is densely populated and has a high rate of alcohol abuse.

“People are unemployed and when parents go out to look for money or food, the children are left unattended,” she said.

The abuse of children often leads to them being infected with HIV.

Speaking to SAnews, Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Hlengiwe Mkhize said the aim of the event was to create awareness of the role information and communications technology (ICT) plays in the promotion of HIV and Aids education and prevention activities.

“This is an important day just to remind the whole world that we are at a point where we need to [get to a] zero rate [of infection]. Nobody should be infected beyond those who are already affected…”

The Deputy Minister said over years, the NCTV has been working with the community of Diepsloot with a special focus on trauma and grief counselling.

“[NCTV] also deals a lot with orphans of Aids… It is quite symbolic to come to a place like this and share with the community what government is doing for them and what can be done to prevent further cases.”

The community said there are not enough care and early childhood development (ECD) facilities for the number of children in Diepsloot.

“Most of our children are roaming the streets without care,” said one community member.

She called on government to consider building these much-needed ECD centres in the area.


Opportunities abound in government’s development plan

Johannesburg: Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown says there are plenty of opportunities for the private sector to partner with state-owned companies.

The Minister on Tuesday addressed the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), where she outlined progress made on the Nine-Point Plan.

The plan was announced by President Jacob Zuma earlier this year. It seeks to ignite growth and create jobs by chiefly focusing on resolving the energy challenge. The plan also encourages private sector investment, advancing beneficiation in the country’s mineral wealth and ensuring a more effective implementation of the Industrial Policy Action Plan.

“The Nine-Point Plan clearly states that government will be intensifying its efforts to drive industrialisation and roll out infrastructure development programmes in order to create decent and sustainable jobs, reduce poverty, stimulate export-orientated industries and improve the competitiveness of South Africa,” said Minister Brown.

Government, through the Department of Public Enterprises, is driving infrastructure development in the energy sector with the new build programme; mining with new coal fields in Waterberg and an export line to Richards Bay; in manufacturing with the processing of forest products as well as production of military products through Denel; and in the transport sector through the Durban-Free State-Gauteng Corridor; South-Eastern Node and New Multi-Purpose Pipeline.

Minister Brown said there was lots of scope for the private sector to get involved.

“It is clear that the private sector has a significant role to play in the infrastructure rollout partnering with state-owned companies. To coordinate and promote the public-private partnership, government has developed a Private Sector Participation Framework (PSP) that guides the investment of the private sector,” she said.

The framework has 22 pillars that aim to explain the implementation plan of PSP. The PSP aims to bring about an enabling institutional environment and encourage responsible business conduct.

Transport sector

Opportunities in the transport sector for the private sector include partnering with Transnet in developing efficient and effective transport and logistic infrastructure.

Transnet capital expenditure, as outlined in its Market Demand Strategy, is approximately R336 billion focusing mainly on rail, pressure vessels and steel, among others.

Transnet is set to build 1 064 locomotives at a cost of R50 billion. The project will create over 6 300 jobs and benefit 55 small businesses.

To date, Transnet has spent R108.9 billion and the entity is expected to spend about R340 billion over the next decade on capex projects.

Energy sector

Minister Brown said it was crucial for the private sector to play a role in addressing the future electricity needs of the country.

“This will reduce the funding burden on government, relieve the borrowing requirements of Eskom and introduce generation technologies that Eskom may not consider as part of its core function.”

In the medium-term, government has prioritised that 3 725MW of renewable energy to be generated from renewable energy sources through the Independent Power Producer (IPP) Procurement programme.

The programme is a key vehicle for securing electricity capacity from the private sector using renewable energy sources and to stimulate the renewable industry in the country.

Minister Brown encouraged the private sector to submit projects that would require partnerships with SOCs.

“The benefits of partnering with state-owned companies include access to large and stable markets and exposure to greater business opportunities,” said Minister Brown.

Cabinet has also tasked Minister Brown’s department with developing a concept paper on a shareholder management model for state owned companies. The Minister said the elements of the concept paper will be released soon.


China, Africa relations aligned to development goals

Pretoria: The relationship between China and Africa is based on more than just trade – it is a partnership that is aligned to Africa’s development goals.

This is according to Minister in the Presidency responsible for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Jeff Radebe during the inaugural China-Africa Media Summit held in Cape Town on Tuesday.

He told delegates at the summit that media leaders from both China and Africa have an opportunity to frame win-win solutions that would deepen the positive trajectory of co-operation and development.

“We also invite our Chinese friends to partner with us in championing development in the continent through new business ventures, infrastructure development, media capacity development and many other areas of mutual interest.

“Together we can take Africa and China forward in positive ways that have never been imagined before,” he said.

Minister Radebe said Africa has been branded as a continent of doom characterised by malnourished babies, poverty, crime, conflict and squalor.

“Yes, these problems do exist in our continent like in many other parts of the world and their adverse impact is severe to individuals and communities across our land. However, it is also our duty to tell the good story that would help change the negative narrative to an Africa that is a land of opportunities and potential, rich with unique cultural diversity and resources that could be harnessed effectively for the benefit of all our people and contribute to a better world,” he said.

Africa is one of the few continents that are currently experiencing continuous economic growth as measured through average Gross Domestic Product of about 5%, which is projected to continue improving into the future against the recent global economic recession and financial meltdown.

“We are all duty-bound to ensure that the benefits of this unprecedented economic growth are translated into real socio-economic development for all our people.

“It is greatly encouraging that in recent times, Africa has witnessed significant reduction in headline poverty levels due to progressive policies that are increasingly being implemented by African governments in partnership with their global strategic partners such as the People’s Republic of China,” said Minister Radebe.

He said South African government appreciates the Chinese people, businesses and government for their interest to partner with African countries through mutually beneficial mechanisms like the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

South Africa is the co-chair of the FOCAC and Minister Radebe said government is looking forward to hosting the Johannesburg Summit, and the Sixth Ministerial Meeting of FOCAC in Johannesburg from 3 to 5 December 2015.

The theme for the summit is ‘Africa-China Progressing Together: Win-Win Cooperation for Common Development’.

He said the FOCAC meeting will be an opportunity to further stimulate growth and unlock new opportunities between China and Africa on trade and cooperation.

“Africa and China have forged strong economic relations, particularly since 2009 when China became the continent’s largest trading partner,” he said.


Expand ARVs to all people living with HIV, urges WHO

Pretoria: As the globe marks World Aids Day, the World Health Organisation says expanding antiretroviral therapy to all people living with HIV is the key to ending the epidemic within a generation.

It said the “treat all” recommendation will enable countries to expand treatment rapidly and efficiently.

WHO will be presenting this recommendation at a major international Aids conference taking place in Harare, Zimbabwe, this week.

According to the UN health agency, trial results published earlier this year have confirmed that people living with HIV who begin antiretroviral therapy soon after acquiring the virus – before the virus has weakened their immune systems – are more likely to stay healthy and are less likely to transmit the virus to their partners.

Those findings led WHO in September to recommend that everyone living with HIV be offered treatment.

The other recommendations to be tabled include using innovative testing strategies to help more people learn they are HIV positive; moving testing and treatment services closer to where people live; starting treatment faster among people who are at advanced stages of HIV infection when they are diagnosed, and reducing the frequency of clinic visits recommended for people who are stable.

“WHO applauds governments, civil society and organisations that have made availability of life-saving antiretroviral therapy possible in the most trying circumstances.

“The new recommendation to expand [treatment] to all people living with HIV is a call to further step up the pace,” said WHO Assistant Director General for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases, Winnie Mpanju-Shumbusho.

UNAids estimates that 17.1 million of the 36.9 million people living with HIV worldwide do not know they have the virus.

Getting tested is a crucial first step for people living with HIV to access life-saving antiretroviral therapy.

According to the agency, “the world is poised to end the Aids epidemic by 2030 – provided it can accelerate the pace of progress achieved globally over the past 15 years”.

Since 2000, an estimated 7.8 million lives have been saved, fewer people are acquiring HIV, and projections of an end to the epidemic by 2030 – a goal once considered unattainable by many experts – are now realistic, according to the WHO report, Global Health Sector Response to HIV 2000-2015.

Over the last 15 years, the scale-up of antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been most dramatic in the WHO African region where now more than 11 million people are receiving HIV treatment, up from 11 000 at the turn of the century.

WHO said over the last five years in Africa, some 10 million men have undergone voluntary medical circumcision, a procedure that reduces their risk of acquiring HIV by 60 percent.

South Africa has the biggest HIV treatment programme in the world, with more than three million people on life-saving anti-retroviral treatment.

People are living longer and fewer people are dying of Aids and Tuberculosis (TB). Life expectancy has increased from 53 years in 2006 to just over 62 years in 2013. Mother-to-child transmission has also been reduced.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “We have acted in various ways – big and small – to spread information, to fight stigma and to promote healthy lifestyles.

“We have made protection our priority, from classrooms to sports fields, from the factory floor to our homes, from our bedrooms to our boardrooms, and all corners of our society.”

However, the fight is not without its challenges, as the number of new HIV infections is still high, particularly among young women and girls.

South Africa will join the world in commemorating World Aids Day, under the theme: “Rise. Act. Protect”.