highlights the plight of babies with Aids, as well as AIds orphans," said
Sister Stella Dubazana, who led the sombre burial service at a cemetery north of
the city centre.
babies who were orphaned by Aids, or whose relatives have abandoned them because
they had the disease," she said.
High infection rate
UN figures show that
more than 20% of South African adults are infected while 660 000 children
have been orphaned as a result of Aids.
Although strides have
been made in Aids education in the last few years, the stigma attached to the
virus is among the largest remaining problems, Dubazana said.
"This is one of
the things we have to fight. That's why we get babies abandoned on our own
doorstep," said Dubazana as she stepped away from the wall where the ashes
of the babies, contained in boxes wrapped with gold paper, were placed behind
inscriptions of their names.
The oldest child to be
cremated, Mahlatse Gumede, was three; the youngest, Mark Kaheka, 29 days.
Dubazana said the
Cotlands Aids Hospice, an orphanage that looked after about 60 babies with Aids,
had seen an increase in Aids deaths since last year.
"Last year we
buried 45 babies. This year it's up to 60," she said.
Elsewhere in the city,
about 500 Aids activists marched to get their message across.
"The purpose of
the march is once again to highlight the issue of HIV, and also the march is led
by people who are openly living with HIV," Mark Heywood, spokesperson for
Aids lobby group Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), said.
"We call on more
people to be open about the fact that they have HIV and Aids," he said.
He said the TAC was
holding the march a day after an important agreement between government, labour,
business and communities living with the disease that could lead to the
provision of antiretrovirals to all Aids patients next year.
The deal, reached
It included an
understanding that "no person should be sent away from hospital or a health
care institution or not treated because of their HIV status."
The agreement set a
target of reducing by one-fifth the number of babies infected with HIV by 2005.
was reached just a day ago. Once being implemented, it will begin to change the
impact in the fight against Aids," Heywood said.
The TAC in the past
few years challenged the state's refusal to provide anti-retroviral drugs to
HIV-positive pregnant women, to prevent mother-to-child transmission.
The High Court ruled
in December last year that treatment should be made available in state
hospitals, but the government lodged appeals.
In July, the