New Ministry to ensure women's access to health services

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Johannesburg - The new Department for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities has made a commitment to work with health professionals to ensure that women have easy access to health services.

Speaking at a Maternal Child and Women's Health Summit, Minister Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya said the department would use its systems to ensure that women are aware of the critical need to visit the health centres and do check ups to protect their health.

"Women carry the heaviest burden of HIV and AIDS and we have to ensure that that Voluntary Counselling Testing and counselling are available in all our clinics and are encouraged to know their status.

"Those who test positive should have access to the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme, our success in this regard will go a long way in assisting us to attain the target of reducing the rate of new HIV infections by 50 percent by the years 2011," said Minister Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya.

She said mothers should be fast-tracked in terms of access to AIDS treatment because the survival of the child is very much linked to the survival of the mother, adding that mothers should constitute the most significant portion of the 80 percent in need of anti retroviral treatment.

"We will have to ensure that our clinics are adequately staffed with health workers who are appropriately empowered to detect and manage complications relating to pregnancy and also mobilise resources for better health care," she said.

She said South Africa was making progress in providing free condoms and implementation of the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission programme, noting that there is no need for unborn children to be exposed to contracting HIV and AIDS.

The health institutions, she said, have an important role to play in helping women to collect evidence in cases of rape and sexual assault.

"We are committing to work together to ensure that health workers, particularly nurses who are backbone of the health care system have the necessary skills for effective management and support for the survivors of violence, rape and abuse.

"Our goal is to ensure that all our health workers are capable of assisting the investigating officers with the collection of the necessary evidence to ensure conviction," said the minister.

The summit aims to obtain consensus on key bottlenecks to meeting the health Millennium Development Goals and to agree on steps to be taken to urgently address the challenges.

Last year, the department launched three national committees to review maternal, perinatal and childhood deaths in South Africa. The principal tasks for the committees were on morbidity and mortality in children under five years of age.

According to a report presented by the committees at the summit, the number of deaths of children under five have increased from 61 percent in 1998 to 70.9 percent in 2007.