27 May 2013

HIV/Aids a problem for Africa: Zuma

HIV/Aids is major problem facing Africa, which has borne a significant burden as a result of the disease, President Jacob Zuma said.


HIV/Aids is major problem facing Africa, which has borne a significant burden as a result of the disease, President Jacob Zuma said. "The leadership of the African Union considers Aids, tuberculosis (TB), malaria and other infectious diseases as emergencies requiring bold action, unprecedented levels of financial investments and sustained political leadership," Zuma told an Aids Watch Africa heads of state and government luncheon in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In the past two decades, significant progress had been made fighting the disease through a wide variety of mechanisms.

"Whilst a significant component of resources dedicated to addressing these epidemics and diseases came from the development community, Africa is now in a stronger position to lead, define and drive its own development," he said, according to a copy of his speech.

"More importantly, an increasing number of African governments are increasing their domestic allocation to the health sector and in particular to the fight against HIV/Aids, TB, malaria and other diseases."

Slowing down the disease

Success would be slowing down and eventually eradicating these diseases, and to do this, bold leadership, innovation, flexibility and investment in research to inform policy was required.

Zuma said Aids Watch Africa was a consolidation of the African Union's (AU) efforts to fight HIV/Aids. It would monitor the implementation of important declarations made by the AU to fight HIV/ Aids.

New frontiers were also being explored, such as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) platform, and partnerships with the private sector.

"The efforts and investments are starting to bear fruit as highlighted by some of the most recent reports that have been published by the United Nations joint Aids programme," Zuma said.

"[The reports] show that access to antiretroviral drugs has increased from 2.95 million in 2008, to 3.9m in 2009 and to seven million people in 2013."

While this was good news, it needed to be kept in mind that many people still did not have access to life-saving therapy.

"In South Africa, we have made some huge strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS since its discovery some 30 years ago," Zuma said.

SA hardest hit by HIV and TB

"As a country at the grip of this epidemic, South Africa has indeed been hardest hit by the impact of not only HIV, but the TB epidemic as well."

South Africa had developed several strategies and interventions to reduce the number of new HIV infections, and had expanded access to treatment for people living with HIV, especially pregnant women.

The results were that 20 million people had been tested since April 2010, 10 million people had been screened for TB, 500 000 new patients were on antiretroviral treatment and HIV/Aids-related deaths had been reduced by 50% to less than 270 000.

The transmission of HIV from mother-to-child in South Africa had also significantly decreased in the past three years, from a high of eight percent in 2010, to 2.7% this year.

These achievements had not made South Africa complacent, and the country continued to review programmes, and introduce new approaches in line with international guidelines, Zuma said.



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HIV/Aids expert

Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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