S Africans make inputs into country's Aids strategy

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pretoria - For the first time in the country's history, ordinary South Africans have been given the opportunity to have their voices heard and their inputs incorporated in the development of the new National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV and AIDS 2012- 2016.

The National Association of People Living with HIV and AIDS (NAPWA) and the Progressive Men's Movement of South Africa (POMESA) handed over the People's AIDS Plan Declaration to the Presidency on Tuesday.

The declaration follows the National People's AIDS Assembly held in September, which provided a platform for people at a grassroots level to make inputs in the development of the new South African HIV, TB and STI strategic plan.

During the assembly, delegates put forward their views on what they wanted to be included in the new strategic plan. They were given post cards to write down five points on what they wanted to see in the plan. These were compiled into the People's AIDS Declaration.

Reading the declaration on Tuesday, General Secretary of POMESA, Nkululeko Nxesi, highlighted that positive cultural and traditional practices could assist in fighting HIV and AIDS and they will advocate that government conducts research so that the end result could see its implementation.

POMESA also asked government to equally recognise the male medical circumcision and cultural initiation practice in the new NSP as part of the intervention to be used to fight HIV and AIDS.

"We also call upon government to ensure that proponents of medical male circumcision must be culturally sensitive when promoting medical male circumcision, and condoms must be made more available and more accessible, especially female condoms.

"We call upon government to allocate more resources in the establishment and strengthening of support groups and to ensure that they are in communities across the country," Nxesi said, reading the declaration.

Calling for the expansion of access to treatment, the declaration said the issue of nutrition must be clear in the new strategy - treatment must be offered along with food security and other basic services like water, clean sanitation, housing and electricity.

"Treatment adherence rate has dropped due to poverty and government should provide these to all unemployed and poverty stricken people living with HIV, regardless of their CD4 count.

"We don't want handouts. What we are saying is that there should be an entry strategy where people on treatment and receiving government grants can be put on the skills development programme so that after a year, they are taken out of the programme and earn their own living," Nxesi explained.

The declaration further called on government to ensure that programs like the stigma index and stigma mitigation frameworks are part of the new plan and are implemented. It recommended that the NSP be changed to National AIDS Plan.

Accepting the declaration and post cards, Special Advisor to Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, Dr Nono Simelela, said most of the issues raised in the declaration were being brought into the NSP and assured that they will be incorporated into the development of the new NSP.

Government is also looking at developing a shorter version of the NSP, which will also be translated into all the 11 languages with the first version on IsiXhosa expected to be ready by December, Simelela added.