11 February 2009

Budget boost for Aids fight

An additional R932 million will be added to the health department's HIV and Aids grant in the coming financial year to extend the screening of pregnant mothers.

An additional R932 million will be added to the health department's HIV and Aids grant in the coming financial year to extend the screening of pregnant mothers, says Finance Minister Trevor Manuel.

"We are budgeting to extend screening of pregnant mothers coming into the public health system, and to phase in an improved drug regimen to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission," he told MPs in the National Assembly.

According to his 2009 Budget, the department will receive an additional R932 million to screen all pregnant women, step up the prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and to improve drug regimens by implementing dual-and triple-therapy.

The 2009 Estimates of National Expenditure, tabled on Wednesday, says voluntary counselling, testing and other services are now provided in more than 95 percent of health facilities.

According to the document, the department's goal is to increase the number of pregnant women who are tested for HIV from 80 percent in 2009/10 to 95 percent in 2010/11.

It says attention still needs to be given to the new dual-therapy programme for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission "to ensure that every mother is screened and managed appropriately to prevent HIV infections in babies".

About 1.9 million female condoms were distributed in the past year, with "steady progress" in this area.

However, only 169 million male condoms were distributed by September 2008, well short of the target of 450 million. This was partly due to a batch of defective condoms that had to be recalled during the year.

By the end of November last year, 630 755 patients had been started on ARV (antiretroviral) therapy, of which 574 496 were adults and 56 279 children. More than 200 000 new patients started treatment in the past 12 months.

"Funding by government and donors will allow the number of people on treatment to grow from 630 775 in 2008/09 to 1.4 million by 2011/12," the document says.

Despite the mortality rate among young adults deteriorating, HIV and Aids prevalence had levelled off at high rates. As a result, there was an urgent need to extend treatment.

"HIV and Aids prevalence has levelled off at high rates and prevention programmes need to be accelerated."

The disease was placing a burden on the health sector, and as a result "the quality of health services is sometimes not optimal".

The 2007 ante-natal care survey had found there was a one percent reduction in HIV prevalence between 2006 and 2007.

Strategies to improve HIV prevention will be implemented to achieve the target of a 50 percent reduction in new infections by 2011, the document says.

Speaking in the House, Manuel said the provision of free ARV treatment had persistently features in tips sent to him by the public through the years.

"Jackie Mondi of Berario wrote an extensive tip in 2003 calling for a special fund for fighting HIV/Aids; that the focus should be on both care and prevention," Manuel said.

(Sapa, February 2009)

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HIV/Aids Centre

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