Today, across the world, 4,900 people will die because they have AIDS. Another 7,100 will be infected with HIV. That’s 12,000 people directly affected in one day – not including the families and community members who are also affected when a person they know contracts HIV.
A staggering three-quarters of those deaths and two-thirds of new infections will be in Sub-Saharan Africa, which has been hit harder by HIV and AIDS than any other place on Earth.
There are signs of hope, though. In 2011, 3.9 million people in the region are receiving antiretroviral treatment (ARVs) – that’s nearly the entire population of Melbourne. And programs like the one being run by our partner Vhutshilo Mountain School are contributing to these encouraging treatment numbers.
Vhutshilo Mountain School runs a paediatric ARV program in the village of Tshikombani in Limpopo Province, South Africa. The program helps 31 children between the ages of 3 and 16 years, 29 of whom are on ARV medication.
The project has been hugely successful at helping kids maintain their strict drug regimes; many of them have been on ARVs since 2005. Part of the program’s success comes from the fact that children are empowered to take control of their own treatment. They measure and administer their own medication, without relying on adults to remind them of when to take it or when to visit the local hospital to get more. This is particularly important in a country where so many children have been affected by HIV and AIDS.
Vhuhwavho* is one of the children supported by Vhutshilo Mountain School.
Vhuhwavho’s story: Developing confidence and becoming a child advocate
“My mother died. I lived with my granny. I was always getting sick. Susie, my foster mother, came and took me to the doctor and asked him to find out what was wrong with me. He said I had HIV and that I would not live beyond tomorrow. But Susie (the program director at Vhutshilo Mountain School ) did not believe that. She got someone to get the right medicines for me and I became well.
“I am still here, and on the 9th of August I will be nine. When I was living with my granny I was very sick. I had Kwashiorkor and TB. Susie fostered me from when I was about two-and-a-half. If there is one thing I would like to tell the children of South Africa it is this: Please take the right medicine, the right mushango (medicine) and not the traditional mushango.
”I can now help other children take their medicines because I have lived.”
*Name has been changed to protect individual privacy