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2007.06.13
* At South Africa’s third national AIDS conference, all eyes on rising child mortality * 08 Jun 2007 An unprecedented wave of child mortality faces South Africa, one of wealthiest countries on the continent. At the third national AIDS conference here in Durban Kwa Zulu Natal, a growing sense of urgency. Already dealing with one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world, startling studies have drummed up new impetus to focus on child survival and save the smallest victims of the disease. SOT Dr. Nigel Rollins, Head of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Kwa Zulu Natal, SA: “If you look for example in the province of KZN where an average of 40 % attending ante natal the age group in that population trebling of infant mortality in the past 15 years which is catastrophic and if you look are dying in the first year of life.” Not far from the academic analysis, the stark reality – living proof that HIV / AIDS is indeed now the main killer of South Africa’s babies. Only months old but fighting to live. Scarred skin, heaving for breath, failing to thrive, the dramatic signs are all there in these babies. SOT Sister Felicity Langhans, PMTCT section St Mary’s Hospital, Kwa Zulu Natal: “Babies are dying every day . . . every second or third baby is infected here.” UNICEF has supported early testing for new born babies, helping reduce child deaths. Yet too few mothers are being reached on time, and not enough life-saving medicines are getting out to pregnant women. SOT Felicity Langhans: “I think the government really has to start looking at dual therapy and not just nevirapin which has worked quite well up to now, but we are seeing more and more deaths and something has to be done asap . . .” Dynamic solutions are being sought here in a country that is facing the fight against HIV/AIDS head on.
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