South African Government Announces Plan Aiming To Reduce Rate of New HIV Infections by 50%, Official Says
The South African government on Friday announced an action plan that aims to reduce the rate of new HIV infections in the country by 50% in the next five years and provide treatment, care and support to 80% of the HIV-positive population and their families, Reuters reports (Quinn, Reuters, 12/1). According to previous news reports, the strategy will be overseen by the national AIDS council, headed by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. South Africa's antiretroviral treatment program currently reaches about one-quarter of HIV-positive people estimated to need access to the drugs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/6). Mlambo-Ngcuka during a speech on Friday provided details of the plan. According to the plan, the key to successfully fighting the country's epidemic is to reduce the rate of HIV transmission among young people because the "future course of the epidemic hinges in many respects on the behavior young people adopt and maintain" (Blandy, AFP/Yahoo! News, 12/1). One of the plan's objectives is to encourage young people ages 14 through 17 to delay becoming sexually active. "Younger people should delay their sexual debut and abstain," Mlambo-Ngcuka said, adding, "And when people do become sexually active, they should use condoms consistently. We should all avoid having multiple and concurrent sexual partners -- let us commit to being faithful by sticking to one sexual relationship at a time." The plan also seeks to reduce HIV incidence among children under age five and provide antiretroviral drugs to pregnant women. "Nothing less than a formidable partnership between government and civil society can assist us to achieve our goal of reversing the tide of this pandemic," Mlambo-Ngcuka said (Allen, AllAfrica.com, 12/1). According to Mlambo-Ngcuka, 213,000 HIV-positive people have benefited from a government-funded antiretroviral program and another 11,000 join the program every month. In addition, more than 360 million condoms are distributed annually in the country, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 12/1). According to Reuters, community leaders and advocates joined with the government in the plan's announcement, which was "hailed as an important step in a country where AIDS policy has long been marked by ferocious political disputes" (Reuters, 12/1). Sipho Mthathi, general secretary of the AIDS advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign, welcomed the government's action. "There is no turning back for the government now," she said (AP/International Herald Tribune, 12/1). Details of the new strategy will be finalized next near, according to Mlambo-Ngcuka (AllAfrica.com, 12/1).
The "Broad Framework for HIV & AIDS and STI Strategic Plan for South Africa, 2007-2011" is available online. Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.