Hope for South Africa's AIDS Fight
November 19, 2010
Despite its stark assessment that reversing South Africa's HIV/AIDS epidemic is "extremely difficult, if not impossible in the coming years," a report requested by the South African government still offers some hope. Appropriate, informed policy moves now can bring about progress, said Robert Hecht of the Washington-based Results for Development Institute.
"In order to act and to change the situation, you need to face head-on how serious it is," Hecht said.
The report maps out the costs of controlling the epidemic in South Africa, where an estimated 5.7 million of its 50 million population have HIV/AIDS. About 500,000 more residents become infected each year.
South Africa's current efforts to fight AIDS will gradually bring new infections down to about 350,000 per year and cost $88 billion over two decades. Almost a year ago, the government announced a massive testing and treatment campaign.
A more robust plan to bring new infections down to less than 200,000 a year would cost $102 billion over two decades, reported Hecht, experts from Cape Town's Center for Economic Governance and AIDS in Africa, and colleagues at the Imperial College in London. South Africa's health and finance ministries helped prepare the report.
South Africa needs to at least double AIDS spending, from about $2 billion last year, by 2016, the report says. For context, the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria asked for $17 billion over the next three years, and major donors facing stiff economic realities committed just $11.7 billion.
A mass male circumcision campaign also would be crucial for a more aggressive AIDS fight. However, South Africa's largest ethnic group, the Zulus, do not practice the custom. At the moment, government officials are still studying how to incorporate male circumcision into the national AIDS strategy.
11.19.2010; Donna Bryson
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