HIV/Aids

09 March 2010

S Africans ignore Aids prevention

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is worried that South Africans do not appreciate prevention as the best treatment for HIV/Aids.

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Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is worried that South Africans do not appreciate prevention as the best treatment for HIV/Aids.

"President [Jacob] Zuma made two far-reaching statements on World Aids Day, he made a strong statement about prevention and a strong statement about treatment regimes, but after World Aids Day South Africans were only talking about the one," Motsoaledi said at the release of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria's 2010 results report on Monday.

"That's what is worrying me. I am saying treatment must only come after prevention... 

"We are worried that South Africans seem to be thinking that we have arrived. I don't have a feel that South Africans understand that the biggest weapon must be prevention."

The minister said prevention was the mainstay of fighting against any disease and only once that had failed should treatment become paramount.

"The treatment we announced is because of the load we are having, but we want to stop that from happening and so we need to send that message out that regardless of the amount of money you have got, you have to prevent the diseases."

He said this year's budget for HIV treatment had increased 33% - the highest increase any department had received.

Motsoaledi said he was concerned that if the government had to keep increasing the amount it allocated to the illness, nothing else would be funded.

"My problem is that we can't keep on increasing by 33%, we have got to cut the rate of infection. 

"That's where prevention comes in. If we keep on increasing that by 33% we will reach a situation in South Africa where the whole budget must go to the treatment of HIV/Aids.

"I don't think any country can afford that, so our war of prevention is extraordinarily important." 

He added that government would not abandon those needing treatment where prevention had failed.

"We do accept that the fact that we do have so many people on treatment might be a failure of prevention.

"But you can't say now we have to prevent and stop treating."

Motsoaledi would hold a media briefing on March 18 to elaborate further on government's World Aids Day announcements.

South Africa was currently treating 920,000 people for HIV/Aids at state hospitals, 400,000 of these were funded by the Global Fund.

A world with no more malaria deaths

The fund's executive director Professor Michel Kazatchkine said the transmission of mother to child HIV/Aids infection could be eliminated by 2015. "It is also possible now to imagine a world with no more malaria deaths... since already an increasing number of countries have been reporting a reduction in malaria deaths of more than 50%," he said.

According to the fund's report, programmes receiving its support have saved 3,600 lives a day in 2009 and an estimated 4.9 million since the fund's creation in 2002.

South Africa has contributed R76 million to the fund and received US271 million for its programmes from it. The Global Fund would this year request replenishment on its budget to continue its work.

In September three years ago, it obtained US10 billion to respond to requests by countries to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.

Kazatchkine said the current economic context in which the fund was approaching its donors was "very difficult", as many countries were emerging from, or still in recession.

In March it would present donors with three financial scenarios,  ranging from low to high, requesting either US13 billion, US17 billion or a high of US20 billion. In October the fund would know how much it was receiving from donors to fund projects for the next three years. - (Sapa, March 2010)

 

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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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