On February 8, 2009, ten GAPA grandmothers and three GAPA staff members attended the visit by the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Dr. Michel Sidibe, hosted by the Treatment Action Campaign and Médecins Sans Frontières at the Ubuntu clinic in Khayelitsha, to honor his inauguration and visit to South Africa.. There was a panel of speakers including Barbara Hogan, the health minister of South Africa, as well as HIV positive members of the Khayelitsha community who spoke about the anti-retroviral treatments they had been receiving from the local Ubuntu ARV clinic.
Dr. Sidibe came to South Africa to learn first hand about the scope of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, some of the programs and responses, and to better understand the successes and future challenges that are faced by HIV/AIDS programs in South Africa. The event was primarily informed by the local Khayelitsha community, which has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in South Africa. In 2007, antenatal HIV prevalence was 30.2%, and 31% of all adults on antiretroviral therapy in the Cape Town metropolitan area are treated in Khayelitsha. The TB incidence rate reached nearly 1,600 per 100,000 in 2006, and TB/HIV co-infection is close to 70%.
The panel representative from the Treatment Action Campaign turned to the health minister and boldly stated: “When Barak Obama was inaugurated he stated that surely it was an exciting historical moment, but there was a huge task ahead for the USA. Well, Ms. Hogan, we may have achieved great success in the rollout of ARV therapy, but we have a long way to go!” This statement elicited a roaring !isXhosa! cheer from the crowd. It was a powerful statement, reminding all that many people in South Africa and worldwide still do not have access to treatment, a right that is stipulated in the UN Millennium Development Goals. But there is hope. And at this particular event, hope was radiating from the community.