5-year strategy to fight HIV launched in South Africa

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The South African government on Wednesday night launched the multi-sectorial New Strategic Plan incorporating various government departments to fight HIV, tuberculosis (TB) and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI).

The plan was launched on the sidelines of the 21st International AIDS Conference taking place in Durban.

The five-year plan (from 2017 to 2022) is supposed to incorporate the Departments of Basic Education, Justice and Correctional Services, Social Development and Health.

Under the plan, the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) and the civil society will work with the government in the fight against HIV, TB and STI.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said at the launch ceremony that the programme is meant to build on the country’s success in fighting the pandemic.

To achieve the goal of eradicating AIDS by 2030, other disease like TB and STI must also be targeted, he said.

“We asked ourselves the game changers in the fight against HIV, tuberculosis and STI and what was good in the current plan of HIV which the government did not implement and also looked for information gaps,” the minister said.

By September 2016 South Africa will implement blood test and provide treatment to everybody who tests positive of HIV regardless of the CD4 count.

Malebona Precious Matsoso, Director General of the Department of Health, said the plan intends to take the country to the next level in the fight against HIV, TB and STI.

She said the plan intends to bring about zero HIV/Aids, zero TB and also remove the STI.

The country’s treatment of TB is currently at 82. 5 percent.

She said, “We want to improve the implementation of our good strategies, enable innovative engagement with multiple stake holders and game changing interventions we should implement in the next phase.”

Deputy Minister of Correctional Services Thabang Makwetla said they are now aligning their activities with the new plan.

He said that in September 2016 every prisoner who is incarcerated will be put on treatment if testing positive regardless of CD4 count. There are 160,000 prisoners in the country’s 243 correctional centres.

He said any intervention which does not involve those in jail does not have prospects of success since they will come out and join the society.

He also said, “We want to achieve the long life and health for all South Africans. We will ensure that 90 percent of inmates know their HIV status and 90 percent of those who tests positive will be put on treatment. We will also extend that to tuberculosis.”

Dr Faith Kumalo, Chief Director at Department of Basic Education, revealed that the department also has taken measures to complement other government departments in fighting HIV, STI and TB.

They now offer sexuality education to empower the children to make the correct choice, Kumalo said.

The department will start issuing condoms in schools and also counsel children on how to use them, he said.

The department, he added, will also give extra support to the learners and their teachers who will receive extra training.

Linda Mafu from Global Fund hailed the country’s strategy and innovation.

She said they always use some of the innovations in SA to tell other countries to adopt.

Mafu revealed that they have already recommended to South Sudan which has over 9,000 sex workers to come to the country and learn how to deal with HIV.

She said, “We recognize your response to the pandemic. The Global Fund appreciates what you are doing and the partnership with you. We will continue to work with you. We are committed to a partnership with South Africa and that partnership is solid.”

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