Minister of Health commends South Africans who have heeded the Presidential call for action against HIV and AIDS, World AIDS Day commemoration, Mpumalanga, South Africa
1 Dec 2010
Today, on the World AIDS Day, the Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi in his address commended the over 4,6 million South Africans who have heeded the presidential call for action to stop the transmission of new infections by taking the simple step of taking a blood test to check for the presence of HIV infection in their bodies. On 1 December 2009 the President, Mr JG Zuma called on South Africans to take personal responsibility for their health and well being by testing for HIV, leading to a launch of the HIV counseling and testing (HCT) campaign on 25 April 2010 to test 15 million South Africans by June 2011.
Over 4, 6 million South Africans took a further definitive step of actually taking the test to gain knowledge about their HIV status, the knowledge that will make a profound difference in the prevention of new infections. Of those who took tests, over 800 000 regrettable were found to be HIV positive.
What is important is that they have the knowledge to stop infecting their partners by sticking to one partner and always using a condom; adopting positive living and have access to treatment early before their body defences collapse having being subjected to infections and poor health that could reduce their life expectancy.
In the last seven months, we have seen an upsurge in the numbers of people who have come forward to be tested. They have been offered a comprehensive screening for common chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and anemia. Those who test positive and require treatment have been offered treatment, care and support, and millions that tested negative have also been offered information, advice and support to prevent being infected. We have learned new ways to work together across different interest groups and sectors. We have come to understand better the weakness and strengths of our health systems and how to make the best use of our resources and those of our partners.
The government has used the lessons learnt to mobilise communities to take ownership of their own HIV status and be responsible to safeguard their own partners, family and unborn children from new infections and living positive lives. The new knowledge and experience gained have provided new opportunities to develop targeted interventions aimed at increasing capacity to meet these challenges.
I am encouraged by the level of effort from our health workers, who have:
- responded with innovation to rapidly expand services
- joined hands with partners to build additional capacity to respond to greater demands.
As you will agree that we are half way on our HCT campaign, we have achieved two thirds (2/3) of our target during this period, and we have learned many lessons on what works well, and what needs to be changed as well as what needs to be improved or expanded.
Government has taken steps to intensify the campaign focusing on:
- increasing media visibility
- expanding the provider initiated HIV counseling and testing by making it mandatory for service providers to provide the opportunity for screening for HIV, TB, blood pressure, diabetes, anemia at every encounter with patients over 15 years at our facilities
- strengthening and empowering patients to exercise their rights to refuse an HIV tests if they so wish under conditions that are supportive and not coercive.
As we speak we have set mechanisms to improve quality of testing and counseling by engaging the service providers. The process we follow is to ensure that our people are provided with HIV counseling and testing quality services that are linked to care for both positive and negative persons. We have extensive consultations with sectors through South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) and we have embarked on ensuring each province has detailed implementation plans that are based on the needs of the district, ward and community.
We have learned and identified innovate ways of involving and supporting community initiatives such as the KwaZulu-Natal Flagship Programme spearheaded by the Premier and the Letsema projects in the Eastern Cape. These interventions will go a long way in ensuring that we remain on track to achieve our targets.
I am pleased to report to South Africans that despite the hardships that still lie ahead, we are seeing positive signs that our efforts are starting to bear fruit. Beside the trends that have emerged from the National Antenatal Sentinel Prevalence Survey that have in the past three years shown consistently that our epidemic has stabilised albeit at high levels around 17,8% in the adult population above 15 years, we are very concerned that too many South African adults and children, estimated at 5.6 million, live with the virus. We have seen promising signs that mother-to-child transmission of HIV even in worst affected areas has been reduced to levels below 10%. Estimates of adults dying from AIDS related illness have dropped to less than 180 000 per year from a high estimate of over 300 000 in 2008.
Over 1 million South Africans have access to a free new drugs regime that is safer and better tolerated. Recent reports from the Human Science Research Council have shown a significant decrease in new infections in young people who have shown greater responsibility in adopting the use of condoms and other safe sex practices.
This glimmer of hope must propel us to work together to do more, as most South Africans become aware that the country lags behind in achieving health Millennium Development Goals in relationship to reducing the child mortality, improving maternal health and combating HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
The government has taken urgent steps to address the challenges of the many areas that are lacking in services delivery. You will be aware that the Cabinet Lekgotla has adopted the 12 outcomes as key indicators for the Government's Programme of Action for the period 2010-2014. Each outcome area is linked to a number of outputs that inform the priority implementation activities that will have to be undertaken over the given timeframe to achieve outcomes associated with a particular output. Outcome 2 aims to attain "A Long and Healthy Life for All South Africans" and the health outputs that will contribute to this outcome are aimed at increasing life expectancy, decreasing maternal and child mortality, combating HIV and AIDS and decreasing the burden of disease from TB and strengthening the health system effectiveness. These expanded interventions are aimed at ensuring that the programme of action is aligned across departments in order to achieve these health outcomes.
In this year's World AIDS Day we have to live with the sobering facts that -
- South Africa still have one of the highest pool of infected persons in the world.
- 7 out of 10 persons who are HIV positive have tuberculosis (TB).
- HIV and AIDS contribute to more that 40% of the burden of both maternal and child mortality.
- Young women at their early adult life bear a disproportionate burden of new infections and early deaths due to undiagnosed and untreated HIV infection.
- Despite the availability of effective treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission we still see more than 30 000 children born HIV positive, and we still have more that 300 000 new infections per year.
Therefore the theme for 2010-2011 - "We are Responsible" - challenges all of us to take a collective responsibility to find those who are already infected and support them; by encouraging every South African to take an HIV test at least twice a year that people who cough more than two weeks seek help from the nearest clinic to screen for TB that every sexually active person takes protection against new infections and prevent infecting others by consistently using condoms, that every couple planning to have a baby undertakes an HIV test to assess their status, that every pregnant woman within the first three months of pregnancy attend a clinic for testing and if positive takes treatment before or at 14 weeks to prevent transmission of infection to their child and that every person who is HIV positive must be linked to care to prevent progression of disease by adopting a positive living and if necessary gain access to treatment.
It is these measures that will make a difference in reducing new infections, reducing early deaths related to AIDS, providing improved quality of life and save lives and offer productive life for many people living with HIV and reduce drastically the AIDS orphans and ensure adherence to treatment to provide many of those living with HIV and AIDS a long and healthy quality life.
Source: Department of Health
Issued by: Department of Health
1 Dec 2010
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