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South African AIDS Delegates Issue Contraception Call

South Africa's national AIDS conference wrapped up on Friday with delegates issuing a call for contraception to be made more widely available and for more research into prevention methods.

Male circumcision and female condoms both needed to be more readily obtainable, delegates said in a draft declaration document which also outlined new suggestions over the topic of testing.

"Circumcision should be conducted, preferably before males become sexually active," reads the document obtained by AFP. During the four-day conference, scientists argued it was time to implement recommendations by the United Nations' World Health Organisation (WHO) for the use of male circumcision to prevent HIV infections, criticising the government for failing to move towards a widespread circumcision programme.

"Although the routine nationwide implementation of the WHO guidelines is not feasible at present, circumcison should ultimately be available and accessible to every man," delegates said. The third national conference also focused on gender issues, lamenting on continued violence towards women who are the majority of South Africa's 5.5 million HIV sufferers.

Njongonkulu Ndungane, the Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, called for an end to macho attitudes that saw men treat women as second-class citizens.

"So I dream that our eyes will be opened and our cultures will be transformed. Women will freely be able to negotiate safe sex and fathers will not blame mothers for their HIV infections," said the archbishop.

Female condoms which have been shown to prevent HIV and also put the onus of protection onto women were not as widely available as they should be, said the declaration. "We commit ourselves to increasing the supply of female condoms to meet the demands ... expanding the range of female condoms (and) advocating for a reduction in the cost of female condoms," it added.

Much research is currently under way in South Africa towards developing female microbicides and new HIV vaccines and delegates agreed they would like to see more investment on research.

During the conference there was also a call to make AIDS drugs more accessible with one non-governmental organisation, the AIDS Law Project, threatening pharmaceutical giants MSD and Abbott with a law suit if they did not issue licences for generic versions of two drugs within three months.


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