South Africa’s battle with AIDS receives funding boost

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South Africa’s revitalised drive against AIDS has received a £15 million boost which could help save millions of lives and stop the spread of HIV across the country.

International Development Minister Ivan Lewis travelled to Johannesburg ahead of World AIDS Day to offer the new South African Health Minister, Barbara Hogan, direct UK support as she embarks upon a new drive to tackle the HIV epidemic.

Ms Hogan’s recent appointment has signalled a significant change in direction in the fight against HIV and AIDS after years of inaction, misinformation and denial.

Ivan Lewis said:

“For too long, South Africa has been fighting AIDS with its hands tied behind its back - with over 5.5 million people living with HIV. Those ties have now been removed and the country has a real opportunity finally to turn the tide in its struggle against this epidemic.

“Barbara Hogan has set a bold and exciting vision on HIV and AIDS and that is why the UK is fully committed to working with her as she embarks on this new approach. We must ensure this new direction is irreversible and that there are no more lost opportunities to save lives.

“If we manage to control and then reverse HIV and AIDS in South Africa there will be a positive knock-on effect across Southern Africa and the continent. I call on the people of South Africa to unite behind this effort and finally call time on the HIV epidemic.”

The UK support plan will help South Africa deliver:

  • More protection for mothers and babies. There will be an increase in the availability of free tests for mothers during pregnancy, and anti-HIV drugs for pregnant mothers and children. Isolated and rural areas will be specifically targeted. It is estimated that over 45,000 lives could be saved every year.
  • National HIV awareness campaign. Information on safe-sex and HIV health issues will be sent out via radio, newspaper, text messages and street posters. The multi-media campaign is expected to reach 9 in 10 South Africans - over 43 million people.
  • Better nurses, doctors and clinics. Medical staff and managers will be helped to improve the quality of advice and service to patients, and staff morale improved through stronger incentives for quality care. Training will be offered to improve the quality and efficiency of services.
  • HIV and AIDS ‘watchdog’. The National AIDS Council (SANAC) will be strengthened and given a clearer remit to hold all parts of government to account, as well as frontline agencies involved in tackling HIV and delivering health services.

South Africa has the highest burden of AIDS in the world. Over 2.5 million people have died and over 5.5 million people in South Africa are living with HIV. Every day 800 people die from AIDS and 1500 people are infected with HIV - around one person every minute.

In the past the South African national response to AIDS has been severely hampered by “denialism” - the disproven theory that HIV does not cause AIDS.

The new awareness campaign “Small Acts, Many People, Big Change: We shall overcome” will be kick started by Barbara Hogan on Friday after the SANAC meeting. It will lead to and culminate in a minute’s silence followed by a national work stoppage on World AIDS Day to start a national conversation on AIDS.

The UK is a leader in the global effort to tackle AIDS. In South Africa, DFID Is concluding a major 5-year programme on AIDS and has spent £30 million to strengthen AIDS responses at national and provincial level. A new 5-year programme will start in mid-2009.

DFID, the Department for International Development: leading the British government’s fight against world poverty. One in five people in the world today, over 1 billion people, live in poverty on less than one dollar a day.


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