Preventing AIDS is more effective than treating it, says a South African whose 28-year dedication to the cause has brought the promise of a turnaround in this devastating pandemic.After treating his first HIV and AIDS patients in 1985, Professor Geoffrey Setswe realised he would have to step out of the safe confines of the Impala Platinum mine hospital in Rustenburg, South Africa, where he was working as a nurse.These were early instances of an indiscriminate disease that would soon reach pandemic proportions in his native South Africa, where 5.6 million people are infected – 11 per cent of the population. “Many people that I grew up with died before they could reach the age of 30, others before they could reach the age of 40,” says Professor Setswe, now a prevention specialist and head of the School of Health Sciences at Monash South Africa.The spread of the disease among his miner patients in the 1980s alerted Professor Setswe to the possibilities of finding a way to interrupt the cycle of transmission.In the case of Impala Platinum, many of the miners were visiting the same local sex workers, and condom use was sporadic at best. With colleagues, the young nurse started an informal program to promote condom use to these sex workers, and – in contravention of the health authority’s policy of distributing condoms only from clinics – began handing them out where miners congregated. Then, as now, his focus was on healthy people

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AIDS FIGHTER DRAWS HOPE FROM A CRISIS