South Africa launches new drive to cut HIV infection


South Africa wants to cut new HIV infection rates by at least 50 percent within five years as it seeks to build on recent successes following years of failing to tackle AIDS and increased mortality, said President Jacob Zuma.

Former President Thabo Mbeki was widely criticised for failing to take the AIDS epidemic seriously, leaving South Africa with one of one of the world’s biggest HIV infected populations.

But the country has since made strides in tackling the pandemic, with a 50 percent reduction in the transmission of HIV from mothers to children seen between 2008 and 2010 due to greater access to life-saving antiretroviral drugs, Reuters reports.

More than 13 million people were tested for the virus since April last year in a rigorous status awareness campaign.
“Indeed, we have achieved a lot in the fight against HIV and AIDS as South Africans, and also globally,” Zuma said in a World Aids Day speech, before launching the country’s second AIDS masterplan to run from 2012 to 2016.

The National Strategic Plan aims, among other goals, to reducing new HIV infections by at least a half, slash the number of tuberculosis infections and related deaths by a similar margin and have at least 80 percent of eligible patients on antiretroviral treatment.
“We cannot afford to deal with HIV and TB separately,” Zuma said, adding the new emphasis, missing in the first programme, was necessary given the high rate of co-infection between the two diseases.

The new plan also identifies sexual violence and intimidation against women as a key factor in the spread of HIV/AIDS.
“Recent research in South Africa shows that we could prevent HIV infections in young women if they were not subjected to violence or intimidation by their partners,” Zuma said.