AIDS 2010 Update: A Corner Turned for HIV & AIDS Care, Treatment, and Prevention in South Africa

AIDS 2010 Update: A Corner Turned for HIV & AIDS Care, Treatment, and Prevention in South Africa

The South African Minister of Health, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, provided a clear picture of a new era of HIV & AIDS care, treatment, and prevention in South Africa at the International AIDS Conference on Tuesday morning.

All of South Africa is united behind one goal of fighting HIV & AIDS,  he said.  Dr. Motsoaledi stands behind a firm commitment to human rights, “access to care, treatment, and prevention is a human right.”

He is working with the Government of South Africa to ensure universal access in their country. “Human rights are not a threat to democracy, but a sign of good governance,” he said.

29% of South Africa’s population has HIV & AIDS, “The new infection rate seems to have stabilized, but this number is extraordinarily high, and unacceptable,” said Dr. Motsoaledi

The Government’s national strategy plan has two targets to reach by the end of 2011. First, to reduce the number of new infections by half; and second, to provide care and support to 85% of those effected by HIV & AIDS.

This past April, the Government of South Africa started a testing campaign; the goal is to test 15 million South Africans. The leaders of the national government paved the way for the movement by getting tested first.

Dr. Motsoaledi predicts that 1.6 million of those tested in the campaign will be HIV positive. The government has expanded its ART (antiretroviral therapy) enrollment to provide an additional 500,000 treatments by 2011. Since April, 1 million people have been tested and 70,000 enrolled in ART.

Dr. Motsoaledi says the extra burden has been embraced by health workers – they are encouraged that people are more accepting of HIV & AIDS and they are using the opportunity to increase prevention.

Those who test negative will also be supported. They will receive information and resources on how to stay negative.

83% of AIDS funding in South Africa is provided by its own government, the minister says, “We are committed to improve the lives of South Africans… we want to transform our health systems.”

Dr. Motsoaledi thinks universal access is still possible in South Africa, but to be successful the effort needs universal support and action, “if funding dries up, the goal will be impossible.”

The Minister had a call for action for all the delegates, HIV activists, organizations, and donors: "we must not tolerate misappropriation of HIV & AIDS funding, we must not waste the money, we must stop corruption, and Africa must become less dependent on donors."

"The investment in HIV & AIDS has increased health care spending, and if we continue this focus we will be able to ensure an increase in life expectancy. We cannot reach the Millennium Development Goals without focusing on HIV & AIDS."

South Africa has a long road ahead of them to fight HIV & AIDS in their country, but given South Africa’s inaction in the recent past it’s inspiring to see that the Minister of Health is fully on board and making a real commitment to the health of his people and country.