8 August 2003
Enhanced programme against HIV and AIDS
Cabinet today convened in a special meeting to consider the Report of the Joint Health and Treasury Task Team on treatment options to enhance comprehensive care for HIV/AIDS in the public sector. A summary of the Report can be found on the government website, www.gov.za. The full Report will be posted on the website early next week.
The Report deals with various challenges, including in particular, a programme to administer anti-retrovirals to enhance the quality of life of those who have reached an advanced stage of the Syndrome, and it proposes various scenarios in dealing with this matter. The Report proceeds from the premise that new developments pertaining to prices of drugs, the growing body of knowledge on this issue, wide appreciation of the role of nutrition, and availability of budgetary resources do enable government to consider this enhanced response.
The meeting reiterated government's principled approach that antiretroviral drugs do help improve the quality of life of those at a certain stage of the development of AIDS, if administered properly.
Further, Cabinet noted that, as we consider details pertaining to this enhanced treatment programme, it is critical that we do not lower our guard as a nation, because there is no cure for AIDS.
It also noted the assertions in the Report that a primary challenge in our situation is to ensure that the 40 million South Africans who are not infected with HIV stay that way; and that those who are infected but have not as yet progressed to an advanced stage of AIDS lead a normal life through proper nutrition, healthy lifestyles and treatment of opportunistic infections. In other words, not everyone who is infected with HIV would need antiretroviral treatment.
Cabinet decided that the Department of Health should, as matter of urgency, develop a detailed operational plan on an antiretroviral treatment programme. The Department will be assisted in this work by South African experts as well as specialists from the Clinton Foundation AIDS Initiative who have not only offered to contribute to this effort; but have also been of great assistance in commenting on the work done thus far.
It is expected that this detailed work would be completed by the end of September 2003.
Government shares the impatience of many South Africans on the need to strengthen the nation's armoury in the fight against AIDS. Cabinet will therefore ensure that the remaining challenges are addressed with urgency; and that the final product guarantees a programme that is effective and sustainable.
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Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)