1 June 2011

South Africa: Over 11 Million People Tested for HIV

Pretoria — Since the launch of government's HIV, Council and Testing (HCT) campaign last year, 11.9 million South Africans have tested, with the figure growing every month, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi announced on Tuesday.

Presenting the department's R25 731 554 billion budget for the year 2011/12 to Parliament, Motsoaledi said in taking the campaign further, the department, together with the House of Traditional Leaders and Contralesa, will on 12 June 2011, launch the massive HCT campaign at Mafefe village in Limpopo.

Giving a progress report since the launch of the campaign, Motsoaledi said before the campaign launch in April last year, as at the end of February 2010, 923 000 people were on ARV treatment but due to the campaign and the increase in access made possible by the expansion programmes, more than 1.4 million people were now on treatment.

"We have been able to reduce the prices of ARVs by 53 percent. The significance of this is that as we expand coverage treatment and put more patients on treatment. As we achieve universal coverage at [CD4 count] 350, it means further reductions in process will be necessary," Motsoaledi said.

Before the launch of the campaign, only 490 health centres were able to provide ARVs as accredited ART service points. However, the figure has grown to 2 205 health care centres providing ARVs. Only 250 nurses were certified to provide ARVs but now 2 000 nurses are certified and further increasing access.

"This has increased access to treatment in a manner unimagined just over a year ago. Our target is that all 4 000 health outlets should be accredited as ARV centres by the end of the year and our target is over 4 000 nurses to be certified by the end of the year," Motsoaledi told Parliament.

As part of the department's programme to expand treatment and in an effort to reduce the burden of HIV and TB, treatment will be provided to inmates who have been diagnosed.

The department will be working with the Department of Correctional Services and has already signed an agreement with Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

However, despite the progress made so far, Motsoaledi reiterated his concerns about the country having the highest TB and HIV co-infection rate in the world.

"To summarise the problems of HIV and Aids and TB in our country, all I need to tell you is that we are only 0.7 percent of the world population but we are carrying 17 percent of the HIV and Aids burden of the world.

"We have the highest TB infection rate per population, and our TB and HIV co-infection rate is the highest in the world, at 73 percent. A total of 35 percent of child mortality, 43 percent of maternal mortality are attributable to HIV and AIDS and one in every three pregnant women presenting at our antenatal clinics is HIV positive," he said.

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