Statement on Cabinet meeting of 17 April 2002

17 April 2002

Statement by Cabinet on HIV/AIDS

Cabinet today received a comprehensive briefing on the implementation of government policy on HIV/AIDS. The meeting reiterated government’s commitment to the HIV/AIDS and STI Strategic Plan for South Africa, 2000 – 2005 [PDF] 210 kb.

This comprehensive programme is backed up by a massive increase in resources. The total budget to be spent mainly through the Departments of Health, Social Development and Education was R350m in 2001/02; it has been increased to R1-billion in this financial year, and will go up to R1.8-billion in 04/05.

Cabinet welcomed the progress that is being made in ensuring that the South African public in general and the youth in particular are aware of the dangers of the epidemic. It called on all South Africans to take full responsibility and care for their lives. Government will intensify the awareness campaign, as part of its comprehensive strategy against HIV/AIDS. The challenge is to ensure that awareness continues to translate into a change in behaviour.

In conducting this campaign, government’s starting point is based on the premise that HIV causes AIDS. It is also critical for us, as a nation, to note that there is no cure for AIDS. In this regard, promoting awareness and life skills and HIV/AIDS education forms the core of our approach.

A critical element of this strategy is the strengthening of partnerships among all South Africans and their organisations to fight this epidemic. Government commits itself to this objective, and will participate actively in the review of SANAC currently underway, in order to strengthen the organisation. "Core SANAC Ministers", now including the Minister in the Presidency and the Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, will be constituted into a Presidential Task Team on AIDS, headed by the Deputy President. Further, measures will be introduced to strengthen government structures dealing with this matter.

On other issues of prevention, the meeting decided as follows:

Research on the use of Nevirapine against mother-to-child transmission will continue; at the same time as government implements the temporary ruling of the Constitutional Court. In the meantime, the Department of Health is working on a Universal Roll-out Plan to be completed as soon as possible, in preparation for the post-December 2002 period.

Cabinet decided that, with regard to cases of sexual assault, government will endeavour to provide a comprehensive package of care for victims, including counselling, testing for HIV, pregnancy and STI’s.

In this regard, survivors will be counselled, including on the risks of using anti-retrovirals as preventative drugs, so they could make an informed choice. If they so choose (as is the case with needle-stick injuries), they will be provided with such drugs in public health institutions. A standardised national protocol in this regard will be finalised as soon as possible.

With regard to treatment, Cabinet emphasised the commitment of government to treatment and management of opportunistic infections. No South African should be sent away and not treated irrespective of their HIV status. Given the critical importance of drugs dealing with infections such as meningitis, oral thrush, TB and pneumonia, Cabinet urged the public, especially People Living with AIDS, to assist government in monitoring their availability.

On anti-retroviral treatments in general, Cabinet noted that they could help improve the conditions of PWA’s if administered at certain stages in the progression of the condition, in accordance with international standards. However, because these drugs are too costly for universal access and, because they can cause harm if incorrectly used and if the health systems are inadequate, government will continue to work for the lowering of the cost of these drugs, and intensify the campaign to ensure that patients observe treatment advice given to them by doctors.

Further, alongside poverty alleviation and nutritional interventions, government will encourage investigation into alternative treatments, particularly on supplements and medication for boosting the immune system.

Cabinet reiterated government’s strong commitment to assist families affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We are also improving the programme of home-based care and community-based care, for which allocations of R94.5-million have been made this year, and R138-million in 2004/05.

Government calls on all South Africans to join hands in a campaign of hope: to mobilise our strength as a nation and as individuals to ensure that, we are able to manage, reduce and, in the long-run, defeat this epidemic. We have it in our power to achieve this objective. What is critical is that we should work together as a united force to achieve the best interests of our society.

Other matters pertaining to this campaign are contained in the following documents:

Nono Simelela   
Cell: 082 578 1515

Joel Netshitenzhe   
Cell: 082 900 0083

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)