South Africa marks key AIDS milestones
07 May 2007
The AIDS response in South Africa has been given a boost with the successful endorsement of two key processes: the restructured South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) and a new national AIDS plan which will guide South Africa’s response to AIDS over the next five years.
The revamped Council is a high-level multi-sectoral partnership body chaired by South Africa’s Deputy President, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, with a civil society representative to be elected as the deputy chair. The Council comprises government ministers and leaders from 18 civil society sectors and it will play a leadership role ensuring consensus is built on and maintained on issues of AIDS-related policy and strategy. The Council will also oversee the overall implementation and review of the new National Strategic Plan.
Heralded as South Africa’s most dynamic and comprehensive document on AIDS issues yet, the HIV and AIDS and STI Strategic Plan for South Africa, 2007 – 2011 draws on lessons learned from the country’s response to AIDS over the past decades and details concrete targets to be reached in specific areas by 2011.
On May 2, the South African Cabinet officially endorsed the five-year plan. Key to the development of the plan has been the extensive participatory and consultative process that started in 2006 and involved government officials, a wide range of civil society organizations, the United Nations, academic and research institutions, labour and business.
The primary aims of the plan are to cut the number of new HIV infections by 50% and reduce the impact of HIV by expanding access to appropriate treatment, care and support to 80% of all people diagnosed with HIV. The plan also pledges to reduce the rates of mother-to-child transmission of HIV to less than 5% and to allocate 40% of the projected budget towards HIV treatment.
Mark Heywood, of the AIDS Law Project and Treatment Action Campaign and member of the UNAIDS Human Rights Reference Group, who was involved in the drafting of the document, said he believed it was a "serious and bold" plan. “Its recognition of the centrality of human rights is very important and it provides much-needed targets concerning treatment and HIV prevention, as well as clearly assigned responsibilities for making the plan a reality,” he said.
“This process brought the South African government closer to civil society and has given us, as a nation, the opportunity to find each other and recommit ourselves to fighting the spread of HIV,” said Member of Parliament Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, representative for the disability sector within the National AIDS Council and member of the Task Team of national AIDS experts appointed by the Director General of the Department of Health to lead the finalization of the national plan. “It was a collective effort and I believe it will be a collective effort once again as we implement the plan. The plan shows us that today is better than yesterday and tomorrow will be even better,” she said.
Throughout the development of both processes, UNAIDS worked closely with the National AIDS Council and the South African Department of Health. Through the Joint UN Team on AIDS, UNAIDS provided technical support to several civil society consultations during the development process.
“Supporting these processes has been a priority for UNAIDS in assisting South Africa to drive its response forward. We welcome the new and bold leadership in strengthening the AIDS Council and developing the solid national plan. The extensive reaching out to, sharing with and learning from civil society and other partners underlines the movement towards a unified national response to the epidemic,” said UNAIDS Country Coordinator Mbulawa Mugabe who was also a member of the 16-member Task Team.
“Critical now is the timely and effective implementation of the plan, which UNAIDS and the UN family will be supporting as much as we can to make the goals laid out a reality for South Africa,” he said.
At the end of 2006, one in nine or 5.5 million South Africans were living with HIV, with a prevalence of 18.8% in the adult population. HIV prevalence is not yet declining although it has stabilized among young people 15-24 years. National HIV prevalence among pregnant women at Antenatal Clinics was 30.2% in 2005.
In June South Africa will hold the 3rd National AIDS Conference with the theme: Building Consensus on HIV Prevention, Treatment and Care. The conference aims to serve as a platform for deliberations on the key contentious issues relating to HIV prevention, treatment and care. UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot will open the National Conference.
Download the HIV & AIDS and STI Strategic Pland for South Africa 2007 - 2011 (pdf, 1.6 Mb)
South African government Department of Health web site
South African government online
Read more on the 3rd South Africa AIDS Conference