Tamar Kahn - Science and Health Editor
The meeting is the biggest local gathering of its kind, and
will focus attention on SAs HIV/AIDS epidemic, which is among the worlds worst .
About 5,4-million South Africans are infected with the deadly
disease, for which there is no cure.
Many participants and observers will be watching to see
whether controversy-prone Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, recovering
from a liver transplant, will make an appearance. Conference organisers said a
slot was available for the minister to speak on Wednesday.
The conference will be opened tomorrow night by Deputy
President Phumzile Mlambo-Ncguka, who heads the recently restructured South
African National AIDS Council.
Expected to join her on the podium are social activist Graa
Machel, the Treatment Action Campaigns Nkhensani Mavasa, and the executive
director of United Nations (UN) HIV/AIDS agency UNAIDS, Peter Piot.
Piot is on his first official mission to SA since 2000, and is
expected to make an announcement on Thursday on his findings.
The conference theme is Building Consensus on Prevention,
Treatment and Care, and organisers hope to end the four-day meeting with a
formal declaration on the way forward on key topics, such as the role of male
circumcision in preventing HIV transmission. Other issues up for discussion
include the UNs new guidelines on HIV testing and the spread of extremely drug
resistant tuberculosis, to which people infected with HIV are particularly
Conference chairperson, Human Sciences Research Council CEO
Olive Shisana, said it was important to discuss evidence-based interventions for
preventing more HIV infections.
Each year many people die prematurely of AIDS and too many
children are orphaned, in spite of the availability of life-prolonging drugs.
We realise that for us to succeed in fighting the epidemic, we
must work together.
More details on the 3rd SA AIDS Conference, taking place in
Durban this week, can be accessed at http://www.sa-aidsconference.com/