Mapping Pathways is a multi-national project to develop and nurture a research-driven, community-led global understanding of the emerging evidence base around the adoption of antiretroviral-based prevention strategies to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The evidence base is more than results from clinical trials - it must include stakeholder and community perspectives as well.

02 August 2012

Helen Epstein's wrong about SA's response to AIDS

via politicsweb, by Nathan Geffen

Helen Epstein is an influential journalist and regular contributor to one of the world's most prestigious literary journals, the New York Review of Books (NYRB). It is therefore unsettling that she has written an article on the NYRB blog that contains serious errors about the South African HIV epidemic and the important prevention benefits of antiretroviral treatment (ART) (see here).

In her first sentence Epstein writes, "When I first visited South Africa in 2000 to report on the AIDS epidemic there, one adult in five was HIV positive, and a million children had lost one or both parents to the disease." These numbers are simply wrong. UNAIDS estimates that by 2001 there were 580,000 children who had lost one or both parents to AIDS. This is a horrific figure, but substantially less than Epstein's. 2 The Actuarial Society of South Africa estimates the number of children who had lost a mother or both parents to AIDS by mid-2000 and they reach a considerably lower estimate of about 120,000. 3 Epstein also overstates the percentage of adults infected with HIV in 2000.

Epstein writes, "Although the HIV infection rate has finally begun to fall in neighboring countries like Botswana and Zimbabwe, it remains stubbornly high in South Africa. After studying the African epidemic for two decades, I've come to believe that shame and silence are the primary reasons ..."

She is wrong that South Africa's infection rate is not falling. Also wrong is her implication that shame and silence make the South African epidemic signally different from those in Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Read the rest.

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