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04 June 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Charl Devenish
Prof Cathryn Tonne
Air pollution not only costs lives, it costs money too. Pictured is Prof Cathryn Tonne presenting a guest lecture on air pollution at the Bloemfontein Campus.

Health effects associated with ambient air pollution (AAP) have been well documented. Subsequently, the relationship between pollution and financial outcomes have also become a focus for case studies globally. An Environmental Research journal article revealed that “low and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected by the global burden of adverse health effects caused by AAP”. 

A high price to pay

In 2012, high concentrations of air pollution caused 7.4% of all deaths, costing South Africa up to 6% of its Gross Domestic Product. According to the recent International Growth Centre study conducted by senior University of Cape Town researchers, this is a direct consequence of the country’s heavy dependence of fossil fuels, a source of health-damaging air pollution and greenhouse pollutants.

Stunted human and economic growth

These South African statistics are attested to by Prof Cathryn Tonne who recently presented a guest lecture on air pollution which was hosted by the University of the Free State (UFS) Business School.

“Air pollution can affect economic development through several pathways, and health is an important one. Air pollution is linked to shorter life expectancy, chronic disease, asthma exacerbation and many other health outcomes that result in absenteeism from work and school. These have large direct costs to the health system.” 

Prof Tonne says that air pollution exposure in children is linked to reduced cognitive development, with important impacts on human capital. As a result, children are not reaching their full potential in terms of neurodevelopment, which has an effect on their income prospects and the economy as a whole. 

Resolving a looming disaster

Technology may be employed to radically clean the air. Cities need to lead in the reduction of air pollution by promoting renewable energy, using active transport such as walking or cycling, and investing in infrastructure to make this safe and attractive. 

With researchers playing a major role in strengthening the case for aggressive air pollution control, the government needs to implement policies in order to control sources of air pollution. This global health and economic issue also requires individuals and communities to play their part to improve air quality.

News Archive

HIV Cure – Just another fantasy?
2016-07-27

Description: HIV Cure – Just another fantasy? Tags: HIV Cure – Just another fantasy?

Dr Dominique Goedhals, Prof John Frater,
Dr Thabiso Mofokeng and Dr Jacob Jansen van Vuuren,
attended the lecture. Prof Frater has been working in
collaboration with the UFS Department of Internal
Medicine on HIV resistance and HIV immunology
since 2007.

Photo: Nonsindiso Qwabe

Twenty-years ago, after a person had been diagnosed with HIV, their lifespan did not exceed three years, but thanks to the success of antiretroviral therapy programmes, life expectancy has risen by an average of ten years. However, is antiretroviral therapy always going to be for life? This is the societal issue that Professor John Frater, addressed in his talk at the University of the Free State. He is an MRC Senior Clinical Fellow, Associate Professor and Honorary Consultant Physician in Infectious Diseases at  Oxford University.

Antiretroviral medicine therapeutic

The discovery of antiretroviral therapy - the use of HIV medicines to treat the virus - has had a positive effect on the health and well-being of people living with it, improving their quality of life. Unfortunately, if treatment is stopped, HIV rebounds to the detriment of the patient. Now, research has shown that some patients, who are treated soon after being infected by HIV, may go off treatment for prolonged periods. Work is being done to predict who will be able to stop treatment.

“The difference made by starting treatment earlier is enormous. Delaying treatment is denying yourself the right to health,” Professor Frater says. However, this does not mean that the virus is cured. “A person can live for ten years without being on HIV treatment, but is that enough?” he went on to ask.

Healthy lifestyles encouraged

The National Department of Health will adopt a test and treat immediately strategy later this year to improve patient health and curb the spread of HIV. ,This is another reason why everybody should know their status and start treatment as soon as possible.

Search for a cure continues

More research is being conducted to establish whether HIV can be eradicated. Remission gives hope that a permanent cure may be found eventually. “Will a cure for HIV ever be found? Time will tell,” he concluded.

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