- JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -
The plight of South African AIDS boy activist Nkosi Johnson has sparked
new fears over the impact of the deadly disease on the country's young.
- Eleven-year-old Nkosi, who has become the public face
of the deadly disease in South Africa, remained in a critical condition
on Wednesday after suffering a series of seizures that have left him in
a semi-comatose state.
- Nkosi's condition prompted front-page newspaper stories
detailing alarming evidence that children were infected by HIV-AIDS in
ever greater numbers and their future was being jeopardised by a potential
collapse in the education system.
- At least 200 babies were now being born HIV-positive
every day -- more than 70,000 AIDS births a year -- and at least half of
the children in paediatric wards were HIV-positive.
- ``The burden of the epidemic can now be seen in children.
It may already be too late,'' Dr Glenda Gray from the Baragwanath Hospital,
one of Johannesburg's biggest medical centres, told The Citizen daily newspaper.
- Nkosi was infected at birth by his HIV-positive mother
and given up to his white foster mother Gail Johnson when he was two years
old. His natural mother had been ostracised by her community after her
AIDS status became known.
- Nkosi's message of safe sex and drug use has become a
rallying cry in the battle against AIDS which has killed far more South
Africans than the struggle against apartheid.
- Gray called on the government to allow the use of the
antiretroviral drug Nevirapine to prevent the transmission of the virus
from mothers to their new born.
- South African President Thabo Mbeki has courted controversy
by denying AIDS drugs such as AZT, that have cut down on mother-to-child
HIV transmission, on cost and safety grounds.
- Mbeki's questioning of the causal link between HIV and
AIDS has sparked uproar in scientific circles. Activists have slammed the
president and his government for confusing the public at a time when the
epidemic was reaching crisis levels.
- Some 4.2 million South Africans -- or one in 10 of the
population -- are estimated to have the disease.
- Health experts warn five to seven million South Africans
could be living with the disease within the next 10 years if nothing is
done to change sexual behaviour.
- Teenage infection rates, in a country where more than
half the population is under 25, are rising at alarming rates.
- There are expected to be around 800,000 orphans under
the age of 15 by 2005, rising to close to two million at the end of this
decade, according to the LoveLife AIDS campaign group. EDUCATION SYSTEM
- The devastating impact of AIDS on the country's education
system was also highlighted in a new report which showed that the disease
would become the single biggest killer of teachers this year, shattering
the quality of education.
- An independent consultancy report carried out for the
Department of Health and leaked to The Star newspaper concluded that one
in five teachers in the worst affected province of KwaZulu-Natal were HIV-positive.
- The report also concluded that one in four undergraduates
and one in eight postgraduates nationwide were HIV-positive, a major blow
to the country's skills base.
- ``HIV-AIDS poses a direct challenge to the education
system's mission and ability to function effectively,'' the paper quoted
the consultant report as saying.
- The report recommended that retired teachers be recalled
to stand in for teachers who die or were absent because of disease.
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