Strengthen HIV and AIDS management - Gates

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Pretoria - Improved healthcare, especially relating to HIV and AIDS topped the agenda of a meeting between President Jacob Zuma, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and businessman and philanthropist Bill Gates.

The Presidency on Wednesday said Zuma and Gates discussed the need to scale up the prevention of HIV and AIDS particularly following on the policy change made by the President on World AIDS Day.

Speaking at the commemoration of World AIDS Day on Tuesday, the President announced bold and life-changing policies. He said that as of April 2010, HIV positive people, with a CD4 count of 350 or less, would now receive anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment.

Zuma also said pregnant HIV positive women with a CD4 count of 350 or with symptoms, regardless of their CD4 count, will now have access to treatment. Pregnant women, not falling in this category but who are HIV positive, will be put on treatment at 14 weeks to protect the baby.

"Amongst the issues discussed was the importance of the prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTC) of the HI virus (HIV) as well as the need to look at male circumcision as a means of prevention," said the Presidency.

President Zuma noted that the issue was being looked into but highlighted that it needed to be communicated carefully to avoid giving an impression that circumcised males are immune to HIV.

Gates informed Zuma about Pre-exposure Prophylaxis, a new initiative which proposes to test everyone and start all those that are diagnosed with the virus on ARV's regardless of their CD4 count.

The two also discussed strengthening the management of HIV programmes, especially the use of global funds and introducing management/business approaches to HIV prevention programmes like the Gates Foundation run programmes in India.

Gates also met with Motlanthe in his capacity as chairperson of the SA National Aids Council (Sanac), to discuss specific matters related to South Africa's HIV and Aids programme.