November 3, 2006
The South African government and civil society groups continue to work on hammering out targets for the nation's updated strategic plan on HIV/AIDS, including how to drastically reduce the number of new HIV infections.
The government aims to unveil its 2007-2011 plan on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1. Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge said Tuesday many issues must be taken into consideration when setting the targets, such as the rate of new infections and socioeconomic conditions. The negotiating comes just one week after Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told a civil society AIDS conference in Johannesburg that setting targets was key to measuring the effectiveness of South Africa's fight against HIV/AIDS.
On paper, the country has one of the best HIV/AIDS programs in the developing world. However, the government roll-out of antiretroviral drugs has been slow.
The Health Department has recently renewed its AIDS control efforts, including enhancing the South African National AIDS Council. After meeting with SANAC members, Health Department Director-General Thami Mseleku said they had agreed upon a new structure for the council, which will be chaired by Mlambo-Ngcuka and meet at least twice a year. A deputy chairperson would be elected from civil society representatives. It was also agreed that SANAC will set up five sectoral committees, which would be led by key government departments.
Reaction to the restructuring has been positive. The Congress of South African Trade Unions, Treatment Action Campaign, the South African Council of Churches, the National Association of People Living with AIDS, and others welcomed the changes, saying they are pleased with the unity and commitment being demonstrated.