The fightback against HIV/AIDS
One of the key fronts has been the continent’s battle against HIV/AIDS, where an estimated 24.7 million people were living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa in 2013 – some 71% of the world’s total cases, according to UNAIDS.
Since the start of the new millennium, there has been a huge uptick in efforts to combat both the spread of the dis- ease and in the roll-out of retroviral treatments to prolong the lives of those infected.
FRONTLINE – INNOVATIVE AFRICA
FRONTLINE – INNOVATIVE AFRICA
•Green revolution: Harnessing earth, wind and fire
•Big leaps from the platform: mobile money and Ushahidi
•The fightback against HIV/AIDS
•Partnerships give chances to more students
•Culture: Soaraway success on a shoestring
•Employment: Take these broken wings and learn to fly
According to think tank the Brookings Institution, up to 25 million people have been saved since 2000 thanks to the new push to combat the disease.
While South Africa’s 2011 campaign to radically boost the number of people tested for HIV has contributed to this number, the most striking single achievement has been the Botswana government’s nationwide campaign to offer anti-retroviral drugs to HIV suffers free of charge.
In 2001, some 320,000 people – or one in four – had HIV, leading then President Festus Mogae to take decisive action and warn that Botswana “faced extinction” if the threat was not tackled.
The following year, the government launched the Masa programme (meaning new dawn in Setswana) providing free antiretroviral treatments for people living in the country’s urban centres of Gaborone, Francistown, Maun and Serowe.
The programme was expanded nationally in 2004, and by the end of 2013 was providing treatment for 224,000 people – around 87% of those eligible for treatment.
The number of AIDS-related deaths in the country has dropped by almost three-quarters, from 21,000 in 2002 to 5,800 in 2013.
By 2012, the programme was costing $347m per annum, with almost 70% paid for from government coffers and the rest coming from international donors, but the cost is likely to rise as newer, more expensive treatments are employed to combat drug resistance. ●
Ebola – Contact tracers
When Ebola was detected in Lagos in July 2014, epidemiologists held their breath. The courageous actions of teams throughout West Africa helped contain Ebola’s spread – particularly the one led by Liberian doctor Jerry Brown. But had the virus taken hold in Africa’s economic powerhouse, analysts feared it could have cost 10 times the 11,300 lives it claimed. Instead, the medical community and government mobilised to stop it in its tracks, redeploying doctors from an anti-polio campaign and calling on the state security apparatus to help with a comprehensive contact-tracing programme.
Vaccination – Jabs for all
The 2010 mass vaccination programme across Africa’s meningitis belt proved to be one of the continent’s greatest health achievements. The ambitious plan saw some 220 million people vaccinated across 16 countries. Incidences of the bacterial infection, which affects the brain and spinal cord, dropped from thousands to zero.
The MenAfriVac jab effectively wiped out meningitis A in the region and prevented new outbreaks. In 1996 and 1997, some 250,000 people fell ill and 25,000 died of the infection. But health officials warn that unless the inoculation programme is made routine for children, the disease risks returning.
Malaria – Fever for none
The tiny country of Swaziland saw a 99% drop in malaria cases from 2000 to 2014 and is set to become the first mainland sub-Saharan African country to completely eradicate the disease by the end of 2017 following the roll-out of a high-tech programme involving pre-emptive testing and real-time incidence mapping. Malaria, which killed
some 438,000 people in 2015 according to the World Health Organisation, has already been wiped out in Mauritius and the Seychelles, and is being beaten back in Algeria, Botswana, Cape Verde, Comoros and South Africa, which could all be free of the disease by the end of the decade.