Dr Brian Brink, Chief Medical Officer, Anglo American

DR Brink Interview

I believe we can beat AIDS. Today we have the tools to do the job, between the prevention and treatment; working both together we can get the job done. I am a firm believer in the 3 zeros; zero new infection, zero people who die from AIDS and zero discrimination and these can be done with what we have got. In order to get this we have to engage with everybody in the community and enlist everybody in the fight. We have to get people to understand that they need to know their HIV status and that there is nothing to be afraid of. Once we get people to test with the fear of discrimination and the knowledge that if they are positive we can keep them having a normal life, we have to get to everybody.

 This takes me to the work done by TCE, Total Control of the Epidemic; I think it is a fantastic concept. The work being done by Humana through TCE is the work that is going to stop the epidemic and save lives. It is getting out to the population, to every single household and make sure no one is left outside. I have seen TCE working; it runs like a military machine. It has been carefully planned and mapped out to include all the households. The Field Officers have been properly trained and know what they have to go and do, and they produce results.

Systematically TCE gets to everyone in the community. I have been with some of the Field Officers and seen the reception that they get in the households; they are welcomed with open arms. The people in the community are hungry for the support and the information on HIV/AIDS.

It is about getting people counselled, tested and make sure the HIV positive get the support, care and treatment needed to live longer and not spread the epidemic. Those that are HIV negative are counselled on not getting infected. We have good news today that those ART are 90% unlikely to spread the infection. It is my belief, if we get people diagnosed and on treatment then we keep the epidemic down because HIV is doing damage all the time.

 If we keep HIV down it does not do the damage and we stop running a risk where the immune system is not going to be strong enough to prevent TB and other diseases. I am very worried about TB, to me it is the face of the epidemic. We have to make it broader to control TB, it should include TB, other health factors and social circumstances. These are among the issues that TCE tackles because the Field Officers go to the households and see what is happening, if there are social problems they tackle them which is a fantastic approach in fighting HIV.

The Field Officers are the most valuable part of the program; the work they do is valuable to society, so with more of them we can do much more. You are creating employment and you are saving lives of the entire community, I cannot think of anything more noble than the work that TCE is doing, and we should all be putting more support as we can to get the work done.

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