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December 01, 2010

World AIDS Day in Cape Town

aids orphan

Masani, and AIDS orphan living in Rwanda, is proof that there is always hope. Photo by Skye Grove

Since 1988, World AIDS Day has been about raising money for, heightening awareness of, combating prejudice through and improving education around AIDS-related efforts. In 2010, Cape Town will be part of global efforts to raise awareness around HIV/AIDS, as part of both the (RED) and the Lights for Rights campaigns, by illuminating Table Mountain with red lights from 19h00 until midnight tonight.

The (RED) campaign raises money for the Global Fund, the biggest pot of money dedicated to overcoming AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, by co-branding products and releasing them in limited (RED) editions, donating up to 50% of the proceeds. One of the components of this campaign involves turning iconic landmarks around the world red. The initiative dovetails well with the Lights for Rights campaign, which places emphasis on “shining a light on human rights” in relation to HIV and AIDS, drawing global attention to the rights of those infected and affected by HIV.

According to the latest UNAIDS Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, there are now 33.3-million people living with HIV, including 2.5-million children. During 2009, there were 2.6-million new infections, and an estimated 1.8-million people died from AIDS-related diseases.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, however. The largest epidemics in sub-Saharan Africa – in Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe—have either stabilised or are showing signs of decline, say UNAIDS. Botswana, which has the region’s most successful treatment programme, has cut its AIDS-related deaths in half. In Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland, coverage of anti-retrovirals for preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV reached more than 80%.

Prevention is a key component of the City of Cape Town’s strategic health programme, which is why HIV testing initiatives and anti-retroviral treatment programmes are being rolled out citywide, in partnership with the Provincial Government of the Western Cape.

“The major focus of these outreach events [is] to raise awareness around HIV and also tuberculosis, which is a major cause of death for those infected with HIV,” said Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for health, Councillor Dumisani Ximbi.

This World AIDS day, take responsibility for your health and get tested. Encourage those you care about to do the same. And when you see Table Mountain lit up in red tonight, remember that city cares about the rights of its denizens – to health, to life, to life-giving treatment.

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