Politics/prevention/human rights/prevention/antiretrovirals
Business Day, 14 October 2002, Working to reduce and defeat epidemic, Jacob Zuma, Deputy President

ON APRIL 17 this year, government launched the Campaign of hope, calling on all sectors of society to join hands in intensifying the campaign against HIV/AIDS.

As government, we are strong believers in the Partnership Against AIDS, which went into its fourth year on October 9. We are emphasising partnership as we believe that government alone cannot defeat this epidemic. All of us need to work together to implement the five-year Strategic Plan for combating HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The strategy consists of four priority areas: preventing further HIV infections; treatment, care and support for those who are HIV-positive; research and monitoring, including research into an AIDS vaccine; and asserting the human and legal rights of all affected by HIV/AIDS.

New resources are being used in the fight against the dual epidemics of HIV/AIDS and TB as well as other infectious diseases. The state's HIV/AIDS budget rose from R350m in 2001/02 to R1bn in 2002/03 and will reach R1,8bn in 2004/05. SA was allocated R1,8bn through the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria.

Government is intensifying efforts to help families affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The departments of health and social development work together on this, providing foster-care grants, assistance to childheaded households and food parcels.

Since there is no known cure for AIDS, prevention of HIV-infection is critical. Each of us must exercise our individual and collective responsibility to take care of our own lives.

We are pleased that the high level of awareness about HIV/AIDS in SA, estimated at more than 90%, is starting to translate into behavioural change, especially among the youth.

The latest annual survey of pregnant women receiving care in the public health sector indicated HIV prevalence among those younger than 20 declining for the third year.

There has been much of debate regarding the prevention of mother-tochild transmission of HIV. Research in regard to preventing this continues.

In April this year, we also announced the intentions of government to provide a comprehensive package of support for survivors of sexual assault, including counselling on the risks of using antiretrovirals as preventive drugs.

There has been much attention focused on antiretroviral treatments. Government is actively engaged in addressing the challenges that must be overcome to create the conditions that would make it feasible and effective to use antiretrovirals in the public health sector.

We therefore continue working to lower the cost of these drugs, and to strengthen the health system and intensify patient education to ensure that the drugs are not used incorrectly in ways that can cause harm.

Good nutrition plays a critical role in warding off infections, and therefore government's poverty alleviation programme is an essential part of the fight against HIV/AIDS. We will be able to achieve a lot by continuing to work together and by strengthening the Partnership Against AIDS.

Together we can manage, reduce and eventually defeat this epidemic. Let us strengthen the Partnership Against AIDS in every sector and in every corner of our country.

Zuma is Deputy President and Chairman of the SA National Aids Council.