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The importance of effectively combating HIV/AIDS through tackling the social aspects of the pandemic post-2015.

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An open letter to Ban Ki Moon

Mr Secretary General:

This letter starts with one patient.

I met her on my second day at Kenyatta National Hospital, on the paediatrics ward. I would like to tell you her name, but she had never been given one, so I called her “Beautiful”. She was 3 months old and had never left the hospital. Twenty-four hours after a traumatic birth to an HIV-positive mother who had not accessed the care freely available to all pregnant women for prevention of mother-to-child-transmission, she had been abandoned. Despite having no name, she already had a status: positive. When I met her she didn’t cry, because in her short life she had learnt that no one came when she did. She was developmentally delayed because, in such an underresourced department, caring for the well child was not the physician’s priority. “What makes a mother give up her child?” I asked one of the junior doctors. He responded: “It happens; there are usually more of them”. I explained that I didn’t understand, and the doctor’s response was as sharp as the answer was obvious — I was right. I didn’t understand. “Having HIV is more than just a disease here”, he said, “it is a lifetime of struggling against prejudice. It is a life sentence”.

I knew the proportion of AIDS-related fatalities had decreased dramatically with the upscaling…