The reality of AIDS in South Africa 2 March 2003
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Kate A Herbert,
sw11 1sy,
Didier Fassin, Helen Schneider

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Re: The reality of AIDS in South Africa

Dear Editor

I trust the authors of this informative and interesting article are chuckling to themselves at the response from David Rasnick. The culture of 'suspician and denial' has been evidenced brilliantly.

I welcome the call to move away from the politics of treatment. AIDS is a national emergency in South Africa - an emergency many are still hoping to ignore. Treatment is one option but long term, support at a grass-roots level is essential to prevent the breakdown of the fabric of society.

The authors neglect to mention one staggering statistic: by the end of 2005, it is predicted that there will be 1.5 million children in South Africa orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Children left to struggle on their own. Children who will stop attending school. Children who will one day be disillusion, uneducated adults. It is essential that this aspect of the AIDS pandemic is not ignored.

I spend a lot of my spare time working for Starfish Charity, which is working to provide education, food and accomodation to AIDS orphans in South Africa. I'm a typical white South African living in the UK - and have been living away from South Africa for over a decade. But this has struck a deep chord - and, I fully agree with the authors' conclusion that HIV/AIDS has mobilised both activists and lay people. This issue is not going to go away, no matter how long we argue about treatment or politics. The time to act is now - and it need not be a dramatic gesture. 10 a year pays a child's school fees in rural areas. There is no longer an excuse not to get involved.

Kate Herbert
Starfish Charity

Competing interests:   None declared