The AHF is the biggest non-profit HIV/AIDS organisation in the world and they are really making a difference!
They provide medicine to over 600 000 AIDS patients worldwide. In South Africa, they opened the “Ithembalabantu Clinic” in Umlazi, Durban in 2001 at the time when the government was ambivalent about the rollout of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs.
The clinic has been a beacon of hope to many people living with HIV in KwaZulu-Natal. It began with 100 patients in an old office building, and now offers care to about 15 000 patients, including children born with HIV.
AHF President Michael Weinstein recounts that the organisation was petitioned to help by South African activists who were disappointed by the outcomes of the 2000 bi-annual International AIDS Conference in Durban.
“When we went to the organisations that were treating people with AIDS there was a sense of hopelessness because in the US we already had the treatment evolution. It was very sad, and it made me angry because the government had essentially abandoned millions of people in South Africa,” says Weinstein.
Despite resistance by the national government, Ithembalabantu was opened in 2001 with a staff compliment of three. And, for many years, the AHF was one of only three organisations offering anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs in KwaZulu-Natal.
“At the time, medication cost about $5 000 per person per year in Africa. We knew we couldn’t really help many people. So we said we will set up a clinic for 100 people and demonstrate that it can be done,” says Weinstein.
Many infected people had lost hope when they came to the clinic, and their miraculous recovery has inspired many to seek treatment early. One of them is a fifteen year old girl, who was born with HIV, and is now a source of inspiration to many.
“Despite all the warnings about the drugs being poison, people started to come and the results were almost instantaneous,” says Weinstein.
Jenny Boyce was one of the clinic’s first patients in 2002, and she says: “For a lot of us there was uncertainty. Medication wasn’t provided in the country, and there was a lot of talk about it being toxic and more detrimental than the disease. So we were coming to the clinic because we wanted to live.”
The AHF has also been at the forefront of the global campaign for the reduction of ARV drugs. It’s led marches on the offices of AIDS drugs producers, and those efforts have resulted in prices being slashed down to $100 per person per year.
However, the organisation believes more still needs to be done to end HIV/AIDS in 2030. It has lauded the South African government under President Jacob Zuma for its massive rollout of antiretroviral drugs.
South Africa has the largest HIV treatment programme in the world, with 3, 4 million people on treatment and 10 million tested for HIV every year.
“We appreciate that the government wants to work with us, and has partnered with us,” says Terri Ford, Chief of Global Advocacy & Policy.
“The South African government has stepped up more than any other government in the world. We want to continue our partnership so that we can stop HIV in South Africa, and the way to do that is to get as many people tested and on treatment,” she says.
The AHF have set the bar so high, but we know, as the Youth of South Africa, we can continue to fight the disease that is spreading most quickly among the nation’s young people.
Let’s gather the rally’s and together we can KEEP THE PROMISE!
For more information, and how YOU can help please go to keepthepromise2016.org