The South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) on Friday, 12 August 2011, met in a plenary session in Bloemfontein, Free State Province. The meeting was chaired by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and attended by ministers and deputy ministers, representatives of civil society sectors as well as the Premier and MECs of the Free Statep rovince.
Policy in Action
The plenary was convened under the theme “Policy in Action”, which aims to deliberate on a wide range of interventions towards scaling up interventions to tackle the dual epidemic of HIV and TB.
In 2009, government made far-reaching policy changes to expand access to treatment, care and support to groups identified as critical to efforts to reduce morbidity and mortality. These include pregnant women, people who are co-infected with HIV and TB, and HIV exposed infants who test positive at birth.
Recent studies point to some encouraging signs that reflect the impact of these policies. According to the Medical Research Council studies on prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, the rates of transmission from mother-to-child has been reduced from 10% to 3,5% nationally. The decline in AIDS related deaths is also an encouraging reflection of the expansion of the treatment programme in South Africa.
Progress on HCT Campaign
In April 2010 the country embarked on a massive HIV counselling and testing (HTC) campaign seeking to test and screen 15 million people for HIV and other chronic diseases. The campaign has been a tremendous success with millions of people responding to the call to know their HIV status.
Over the 15 months of the HCT campaign, 14 million people have been counselled and more than 12 million have tested for HIV in the public centre. In addition, 1,5 million were tested in the private sector. This reflects a six-fold increase in the number of people testing for HIV over the previous year. Of those tested, two million people were found to be HIV positive and were referred for further care.
The campaign also highlighted that fewer men have tested than women, and that there are still important sectors, such as religious and private sector, that need to demonstrate more visible leadership in testing for HIV. It was agreed that SANAC will embark on a targeted campaign to encourage more men and people at high risk of contracting HIV to present themselves for counselling and testing.
The Deputy President also urged all South Africans who tested positive to go back to return to theirlocal clinic to receive care.
While the campaign period was April 2010 – June 2011, the HCT programme is continuing to encourage all South Africans to know their HIV and TB status. The HCT campaign will be continue to work in in farming areas, hostels, factories, construction sites and institutions of learning as part of the new NSP.
New criteria for eligibility to ARV treatment
Government has increased capacity to care for people living with HIV and require antiretroviral (ARV) treatment. The number of public facilities now providing comprehensive ART has increased from 490 to 2001. More than 1 750 nurses have been trained on Nurse Initiated and Managed ART (NIMART), making it possible for professional nurses to put people onto treatment.
In a further boost for our treatment programme, SANAC has endorsed the National Health Council (NHC) policy to initiate treatment for all those who test positive with a CD4 count of 350 or less.
Consultation towards a new Strategic Plan for HIV and TB
The current National Strategic Plan on HIV, AIDS, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and TB (NSP) 2007 -2011 comes to an end in December 2011.
SANAC today officially launched the first draft of the next NSP and announced the process that will lead to the development of the new National Strategic Plan on HIV, AIDS, TB and STIs 2012 – 2016. The NSP development process will culminate in the launch of the NSP 2012 – 2016 on 1 December 2011 - World AIDS Day.
The objective of the NSP development process is to ensure that all people in South Africans have the opportunity to participatein the development of the plan that will guide South Africa’s response to HIV, TB and STIs over the next five years.
The process will be coordinated through the SANAC secretariat and overseen by the Programme Implementation Committee (PIC) of SANAC.
Copies of the plan can be obtained from the website www.hivplan.org.za to allow the public to provide feedback on the process.
Thabo Masebe – Office of the Deputy President
Cell: 082 410 8087
Junaid Seedat – SANAC
Cell: 082 435 1321
Mark Heywood –Deputy Chairperson: SANAC
Cell: 083 634 8806