South Africa’s New HIV/AIDS Strategy To Be Announced in December; Might Expand Treatment, Address Health Worker Shortage, Official Says
A new HIV/AIDS strategy in South Africa, which will be announced in December, might include proposals to address the health care worker shortage, improve treatment of HIV-positive pregnant women and increase the distribution of antiretroviral drugs, Noziza Madlala-Routledge, the country's deputy minister of health, said Thursday in an interview, the New York Times reports (Wines, New York Times, 11/3). According to news reports, the South African government recently shifted its response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic to focus more on expanding access to antiretroviral treatment, HIV testing and prevention. The strategy will be overseen by the national AIDS council, headed by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. The government last week also endorsed a revised draft of its AIDS control policy. Government spokesperson Themba Maseko said the government has decided to set goals in the country's five-year plan, scheduled to be released on World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. In addition, activists are calling on the government to provide one million people with access to antiretrovirals, expand HIV testing and reduce the number of new infections. South Africa's antiretroviral treatment program currently reaches about 200,000 people -- approximately one-quarter of HIV-positive people estimated to need access to the drugs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/30). According to the Times, the government's move to revise the country's HIV/AIDS strategy is a "striking departure from the past," and government officials are drawing up the plan "in close consultation" with HIV/AIDS activists who have "long been excluded from past considerations." Madlala-Routledge said that "the campaign against AIDS needs all of us" and that critics had "identified blind spots" in the government's response. According to Sipho Mthathi, general secretary of South Africa's Treatment Action Campaign, there is "growing enthusiasm across the board around the possibility of what we can do as a country in a united fashion" in the battle against HIV/AIDS. "There are still going to be, on certain key issues, quite significant differences of opinion," said Jonathan Bergey, director of the AIDS Law Project at the University of Witwatersrand, but he added that there are now serious talks about how to resolve the differences. According to the Times, the country's restructured national AIDS council, which will oversee the new HIV/AIDS strategy, is tasked with reducing by half the number of new HIV cases by 2011 (New York Times, 11/3).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.