More people enrolled into ART programme since 2007

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Durban - Since 2007 government has succeeded in enrolling over 690 775 patients into its anti retroviral treatment (ART) programme, says Deputy President Baleka Mbete.

Speaking at the official opening of the 4th Southern African National AIDS Conference on Tuesday, Ms Mbete said despite this enormous effort and achievement, only half of patients who need ART today are being treated.

"About 80 percent of the patients take their medicine consistently which reduces chances of drug-resistance tuberculosis," Deputy President said.

Ms Mbete said the four-day conference themed 'Scaling up for Successes', compels the country to reflect on the achievements and experiences and to treat this pandemic with a sense of urgency through deepening government partnerships.

"Statistical figures from Stats SA, the Medical Research Council and the Department of Health show us that in South Africa, more than 5.2 million people live with HIV and AIDS with between 900 and 1000 daily infection.

"Approximately 250 000 people die annually from a variety of AIDS-related illnesses and nearly double that number become newly infected," she said.

She also acknowledged that the foundation of a strong anti HIV and AIDS lies in the buy in of the broader citizenry especially the infected and affected, hence collaboration with the civil society, private sector, community organisations and religious formations to develop a catholic response to HIV and AIDS.

"Such a multi-sectoral approach brings together all these stakeholders at the South African National AIDS Council to assist in implementing that national response.

"With more emphasis on prevention, the objective of our National Strategic Plan 2007 - 2011 is to reduce new HIV infections by 50 percent in 2011. At the centre of this prevention endeavour is our ABC message, which is Abstain, Be faithful and Condomise," Ms Mbete said.

She further acknowledged the achievements of the Government AIDS Action Programme (GAAP) to manage the national communication campaign Khomani to spread the messages of prevention to millions of South Africans through mass media.

Among the success of the initiative include the South African Broadcasting Corporation audience rating results, which revealed that during 2007 World AIDS Day celebrations, about 30 million citizens were reached with the red ribbon race campaign.

"We are also scaling up the supply of male and female condoms, through the Sexually Transmitted Infections programme, government distributes close to 40 million condoms every month to boost our prevention campaign," Deputy President Mbete said.

With regards to Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV programme, Ms Mbete said since the programme adoption in 2002, the services are offered in all public hospitals with antenatal, obstetrics as well as gynaecology services.

"We are happy to share that over 70 percent of antenatal attendees were counseled and tested in 2007 with 66 percent of HIV positive pregnant mothers receiving nevirapine.

"The comprehensive PMTCT policy guidelines have been received and approved in February 2008, introducing dual therapy, the National Health Council played a significant role in the process of adopting the guidelines," she said.

Health Minister Barbara Hogan is expected to address the delegates at the closing ceremony of the conference on Friday.