It is estimated that achieving the objectives of the new National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS and TB, which will come into effect as from April 2012 and continue up to 2016, will cost about R131 billion. The overall objective is to bring down and to ultimately eliminate new HIV and TB incidence.
‘Our long-term vision is to ensure that the country can rid itself of HIV and TB by having zero infections of TB and HIV, zero deaths that are associated with these diseases and, also, zero discrimination’, says Health Director-General, Precious Matsoso.
The strategy outlines key immediate goals to attain in order to move towards this long-term target of zero infections and zero deaths.
‘Halving the infections by using combination prevention strategies, initiating treatment for those who are eligible and ensuring that we can keep as many people as alive as possible, particularly, those who are on treatment, reducing (the) number of TB infections and reducing deaths by half, ensuring that we create an enabling legal environment that protects and promotes the rights of individuals and ensuring that we can support its full implementation, and reduce self-reported stigma and discrimination related to HIV and AIDS’, Matsoso explains.
However, the plan is thin on how these goals will be realised. Matsoso says provinces will be responsible for implementation of the strategy.
‘The Strategic Plan is aimed at outlining broad principles. What is going to be important is the operational plans at local level, particularly, at provincial level’, she says.
The provincial plans will only be launched on March 24th, 2012. But while provinces are responsible for the implementation of the strategy, South Africans are urged to do something individually to ensure that there are zero deaths from illness related to HIV and TB and to prevent new infections. Following the country’s successful HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) campaign in which over 11 million South Africans were tested for HIV, citizens are urged to make it a habit to know their status.
‘It also is about prevention of new infections’¦ Maximisation of opportunities that will ensure South Africans can be tested voluntarily’¦ South Africans can be screened for TB, at least, annually, and, that they can then, on the basis of that, be enrolled for treatment and wellness, care and support. It also will make sure that packages of sexual and reproductive health services are accessible and that mother-to-child transmission is significantly reduced’, says Matsoso.
Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi emphasises the need to test.
‘In our new Strategic Plan, we want to make sure that each South African tests, at least, once a year. That’s important. The HCT campaign was not a once-off thing. It was just to build hype’, he says.
Next year, Motsoaledi says, the Health Department will re-visit and intensify plans to roll out the HCT campaign in schools.
‘We also believe that in all our prevention and our programmes we need to include younger and younger children between the ages of 10 -14, meaning we need to go down to primary schools, meaning the Department of Basic Education, Department of Social Development, Ministry of Women’¦ we need to work together and integrate. The hostility which we experienced earlier this year when we spoke about HIV/AIDS counseling in schools, we believe, is misplaced, while our studies are showing that regardless of what parents think and what other groups think, there are problems there in schools starting in primary schools. HIV prevention must remain the mainstay of our efforts to combating HIV and AIDS’, he says.
Health Department Director-General, Precious Matsoso, says progress has already been made in reducing HIV transmission from mother to child. She says the country needs to invest in this progress, especially to meet the United Nations’ Milennium Development Goals to improve child health and reduce child mortality.
‘Now that South Africa has been able to reduce mother-to-child transmission to 3.6%, particularly for six weeks, our main strategy is to improve survival of children’¦ to ensure HIV-free survival at 18 months, meaning our children must be free of HIV, they must not have diarrhea, they must not have malnutrition and other related child diseases’.
The new National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS and TB will be launched in Port Elizabeth, in the Eastern Cape, later today.