Bold actions needed to reduce HIV infections

Friday, March 31, 2017

Mangaung – Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says government is close to reducing the number of HIV infections by 60% by 2022 and that no stone will be left unturned to achieve this target.

“We as community members and South Africans, we must join hands to defeat this pandemic. It can be done and the achievements of the past few years are a proof of that,” the Deputy President said in Mangaung on Friday.

He launched the new National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV, TB and STIs for the period 2017 to 2022. Present at the event held at Clive Solomon Stadium were Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, Health MECs from Gauteng and Free State as well as members of the National Aids Council, among others.

The purpose of the NSP is to enable the many thousands of organisations and individuals who drive the response to HIV, TB and sexually transmitted diseases to work as a concerted force and moving towards the same direction. It is a third NSP to be unveiled following the first one 10 years ago.

The document sets out intensified prevention programmes that combine biomedical prevention methods such as medical male circumcision and the preventative use of antiretroviral drugs and TB medication, with communication designed to educate and encourage safer sexual behaviour in the case of HIV and STIs.

The goals of the NSP 2017-2022, among others, are to:

  • Accelerate prevention in order to reduce new HIV and TB infections and new STIs
  • Reduce illness and deaths by providing treatment, care and adherence support for all infected
  • Address social and structural drivers of HIV and TB infections
  • Ground the response to HIV, TB and STIs in human rights principles and approaches
  • Mobilise resources to support the achievement of NSP goals and ensure sustainable responses
  • Strengthen strategic information to drive progress towards achievement of NSP goals

Government is of the view that the health of individual South Africans is shaped by economic, social and environmental factors such as poverty, gender discrimination, and substance and alcohol abuse. The NSP identifies social and structural factors that increase the risk of people acquiring HIV, TB and STIs and describes multi department and multi sector interventions to address these factors.

Deputy President Ramaphosa said South Africa has made major gains in the fight against HIV and Aids in the past 10 years with infections dropping from 681 434 in 2006 to just 150 375 in 2016. Deaths due to TB dropped from 69 916 in 2009 to 37 878 in 2015.

“By launching this NSP today we are here to show our resolve to build a world free of preventable diseases like HIV and TB. Today we know that if a person is infected with TB and HIV, it is not a death sentence. It used to be the death sentence but today it is no longer the death sentence,” said the Deputy President.

“We know that our best chance to defeat the spread of HIV and TB lies in behavioural change to stop the spread of infection. This is the reality that we know and are aware of.”

Deputy President Rampaphosa challenged leaders in society not to be shy in talking about HIV and sex.

“Many our leaders don’t talk about HIV, they are not spreading the message about prevention. We don’t talk about condoms, we don’t talk about abstaining and that needs to change.”

Deputy President Ramaphosa called on all South Africans to own the plan launched today.

“Our new NSP emphasises the need of leadership participation and accountability at all levels so that we can achieve our targets. It is going to rest on our shoulders, all of us to defeat this pandemic.”

He advanced for an end to discrimination against people who live with HIV and those infected with TB.

“We also call on young people to avoid drugs and stay away from alcohol and dangerous behaviour. We should all act at minimal to make sure we reach our targets of reducing HIV by 2020. It was also the responsibility of labour and business to fight the virus.

“We have a fight in our hands, let us come together and fight this pandemic until we have defeated it.”

Also speaking on the side-lines of the event was UN AIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, who applauded South Africa, particularly in the fight against TB infections and related deaths. Deaths due to TB dropped from 69 916 in 2009 to 37 878 in 2015 in the country.

“South Africa has demonstrated that by combating HIV, we should not forget about TB and this is something that many countries can learn from. It is an outrage that many HIV positive people are dying from TB,” he said.  –

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