Lyn @5th SAHARA Conference. 30/11- 3/12/2009

The 5th SAHARA Conference was the first opportunity I used Twitter to communicate significantly directly from a conference. This technology provides wonderful opportunities, but also challenges me to provide “Info bytes” of 140 characters or less!

Feedback from the conference:
·    On my way to the 5th SAHARA Conference, focusing on social and cultural aspects of the epidemic - will tweet highlights 9:54 AM Nov 30th, 2009 via web

·    HIV awareness, knowledge not enough.Also positive attitudes to prevention measures, pos behaviours becoming pos practices. 2:40 PM Nov 30th, 2009 via mobile web
·    Shisana: Biomed HIV Interventions that work: Male condoms 80–95%; Female condoms 94–97%; PMTCT 92-98%; HAART 60–80%; Male Circumcision – 65% 9:22 AM Dec 1st, 2009 via web
·    Little evidence of behaviour change in abstinence microfinance or concurrency interventions–poor programmes, poor science, lack of research? 9:37 AM Dec 1st, 2009 via web
·    No Pres Zuma; at another WAD function with Minister of Health. And they did not know this before they printed programs and sent out emails?? 9:58 AM Dec 1st, 2009 via web
·    Baronov: The willingness to openly question one's own cultural beliefs and practices is a minimal prerequisite for effective HIV prevention 11:42 AM Dec 1st, 2009 via mobile web
·    Prof Niang: More ethnographic and qualitative research needed to study why things that work technically, do not work on a social level. 11:45 AM Dec 1st, 2009 via mobile web
·   6.2% of girls age 15-17 in Swaziland are already HIV positive, by age 23-25 this is 43%. 32% Malawi 15-17 year olds had sex in last year 2:34 PM Dec 1st, 2009 via web
·    SONKE:The question is not whether men can change, rather how policies and programs can contribute, accelerate and build on changes we see. 4:27 PM Dec 1st, 2009 via web
·    INERELA+ Address the six evils in faithbased HIV response; shame, stigma, discrimination, denial, inaction and misaction 4:44 PM Dec 1st, 2009 via mobile web
·    Heywood: Avoid dangers of perpetual debates. If deliberation results in policy inertia, then deliberation has become a pointless exercise 9:02 AM Dec 2nd, 2009 via web
· Mulumba; Although key drivers are well known it is important to better understand the distribution of the risk factors within the population 9:34 AM Dec 2nd, 2009 via mobile web

Dr Olive Shisana: Implementation of HIV Prevention interventions that work

Biomed HIV Interventions that work:
-          Male condoms 80–95%;
-          Female condoms 94–97%;
-          PMTCT 92-98%;
-          HAART 60–80%;
-          Male Circumcision – 65%

Behavioral Intervention

-          Strong evidence – Counselling and testing for PLWHA
-          Weak or no evidence – abstinence only interventions; HCT on negative; microfinance; concurrency

Little evidence of behaviour change in abstinence, microfinance, or concurrency interventions. (I wonder if this is because of poor programmes, poor science, lack of research?+

Highly active HIV prevention is the way to go
-          Behavioral change + Biomedical

Other points of Interest

6.2% girls age 15-17yrs in Swaziland are already HIV positive, by age 23-25 this is 43%. 32% Malawian 15-17 year olds had sex in last year 

In many Southern African countries more girls in 20-24 age group from rich backgrounds are HIV positive than from poor areas.

Multiple partners in young girls in Uganda increasing from 1998 to 2005

INERELA+: Address the six evils in faith based HIV response: Shame, Stigma, Discrimination, Denial, Inaction, Misaction

Mucosal cells of inner foreskin is the area where HIV gains entry – not the glans

Structural and contextual factors – from SANAC plan

5.4 million South Africans are HIV+” – In Gauteng 1.55 million people living with HIV; In Durban more people are HIV+ than in Brazil

Urban Informal areas have double the prevalence than formal urban

Caregivers have

-          Uthandolamama – the love of a mother
-          Umquondo kaMama – the mind of a mother

We need to move beyond Afro-Pessimism to concrete action to continuously improve - starting at you own area of responsibility and influence and moving out in ever expanding circles.

The responsibility of prevention is a shared one and there should be no undue burden on those who are aware of their status.

“Over 400 delegates gathered in Midrand, South Africa for the 5th SAHARA Conference recently. Participants came from countries as far afield as India, Pakistan, the US, Germany, and Australia, and from 26 African countries, including Uganda, Togo, Ghana, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Gambia, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Why this conference?

The SAHARA conference has a very specific focus, the social aspects of HIV – that is the social and cultural aspects of the epidemic (as opposed to the bio-medical ones).
An important feature of the conference is its strong Africa focus. So often, Africa is analysed and spoken about by people outside the continent. A real effort is made to provide a forum for African voices, and for local responses to be highlighted.
The networking opportunities at this conference are thus unique in that it provides a platform for African scholars to interact.

Highlights

Highlights of the conference followed up on some of the burning issues raised for the first time at previous SAHARA conferences, namely male circumcision. Barely two years later, several countries have started rolling out a programme of male circumcision as part of a package of preventative measures.
Other highlights were presentations on the conflict between scientific discourse and cultural traditions and the need to identify cultural practices that might be beneficial o HIV prevention. Prof. Cheick Niang of Senegal pointed out that the cultural interpretation of HIV was more complicated than generally assumed as culture plays an important role.”
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