Fight against HIV/AIDS

19 March 2003



Fighting HIV/AIDS in a Partnership Against AIDS

The fight against HIV/AIDS has many fronts: prevention, treatment, care and support, in the context of development and poverty eradication. There is a plan, a comprehensive national strategy, based on the premise that HIV causes AIDS.

The impact it is beginning to make brings a message of hope.

The HIV/AIDS budget (excluding allocations from provincial equitable shares) is set to increase ten-fold from R342 million in 2001/02 to R3,6 billion in 2005/06

What is happening with HIV prevention?

Prevention of HIV infection is critical, because there is no known cure for AIDS.

Surveys confirm a high level of awareness amongst South Africans and the young in particular. The Khomanani campaign, with R98 million of government funds, is reinforcing this.

Government distributed 350 million condoms free of charge in 2002 - that will increase to 400 million in 2003/04.

Vountary HIV counseling and testing (VCT) is now available in nearly 1000 public health sites and more funds have been allocated.

Government's programme to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV, already the largest on the African continent, is being expanded towards universal access to Nevirapine

Provision of anti-retroviral drugs to survivors of sexual assault is now national policy and sites are being expanded.

Although an HIV vaccine is still many years away, progress is being made with government support - Phase I trials of two locally generated "candidate vaccines" begin this year.

What is happening with treatment?

Public health facilities must treat opportunistic infections, irrespective of HIV status. Government is working with pharmaceutical companies to lower the cost of drugs for these infections. TB treatment is free in the public health sector.

We can strengthen the immune system in a number of ways, including our programmes to reduce poverty, improve food security and nutrition. The importance of nutrition for people living with HIV/AIDS is stressed by the World Health Organisation. Proposals for research into complementary medicines will be channeled through the Medical Research Council.

Because anti-retroviral therapy can improve the health of people living with HIV/AIDS if used appropriately, government continues to address barriers to introducing it - high drug prices, weaknesses in health infrastructure and treatment compliance.

A joint Health Department and National Treasury Task Team looking into resource implications of an expanded treatment response, including antiretrovirals, is finalising its work for Cabinet consideration - the response has to be sustainable. For this reason, amongst others, the discussions started in NEDLAC in September 2000, could not be concluded.

The Medicines Control Amendment Act will facilitate more affordable drugs when it comes into force this year. South Africa continues to work for an agreement in the World Trade Organisation that will provide new opportunities.

Additional HIV/AIDS funding in the coming year will be allocated for capacity building and training for better care, and to set up Centres of Excellence, one per province, to provide skills on HIV, AIDS and TB care.

What about care, support and fighting discrimination?

Support and care for those affected is expanding. This includes the impact of the social grant registration campaign and increases in social grants as well as expanded home and community based care programmes. The bigger HIV/AIDS budget will extend this support. Khomanani is tapping public willingness to help alleviate the suffering caused by the AIDS epidemic.

A number of initiatives focus on stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, especially in the work place. Government works with people living with HIV/AIDS in fighting the epidemic.

The challenge is to strengthen the Partnership Against Aids

Working within the framework of the strategic plan to fight HIV/AIDS, we are making progress. SANAC is being strengthened.

However, much needs to be done. The scale of the epidemic requires still more intense efforts.

We can make greater progress as a nation if we all lend a hand in Partnership Against AIDS. Our energies should be spent fighting AIDS, not one another.


Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)