South Africa Unveils Plan to Halve HIV Infections
December 2, 2011
President Jacob Zuma is continuing his dramatic expansion of HIV/AIDS and TB treatment in South Africa, unveiling on World AIDS Day a five-year plan to reduce by half the number of new infections there. Thursday's announcement represents the first AIDS roadmap since the 2008 ouster of Thabo Mbeki and his health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who was called "Dr. Beetroot" for advocating vegetables rather than medication to treat HIV.
Speaking in the southern city of Port Elizabeth, Zuma said South Africans are "steadily overcoming fear and confusion. We have overcome divisions. We have stopped making HIV and AIDS a battlefield on which to fight one another."
The country's treatment program, already one of the largest in the world, is making serious headway in combating HIV/AIDS. The number of South African mothers passing HIV to their infants has plunged, while the rate of new infections fell by 22 percent during the last decade. AIDS-related mortality has declined at a similar pace.
The new initiative calls for halving new HIV and TB infections by 2016 and putting 80 percent of eligible patients on antiretroviral treatment. Zuma did not say what the plan would cost, but local media gave an estimate of 131 billion rand (US $16 billion).
"South Africa started the last plan with Manto Tshabalala-Msimang as minister of health and Thabo Mbeki as president," said the AIDS lobby group Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). "Although the plan was adopted by the government, it was resisted by the minister."
"Five years later, all that has changed. We have almost all the tools and policies to fight HIV and TB. What we need now is accountability for implementation," TAC said.
Agence France Presse
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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