The South African government's programme to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV has helped save the lives of more than a hundred thousand babies, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told Parliament in Cape Town last week.
According to figures from the Medical Research Council, the transmission rate from mother to child decreased from 8% in 2008 to 2.7% last year.
With over 1.7-million South Africans now on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment, Motsoaledi said the country was beginning to see an increase in life expectancy - with researchers in rural KwaZulu-Natal having found a six-year increase in life expectancy with those on ARVs, for example.
'Getting closer to target of curing tuberculosis'
Motsoaledi added that the rate at which tuberculosis was being cured in South Africa was slowly going up and now stood at 73%.
"If we add those that have completed their treatment, but where we don't yet have their last sputum test, then the national figure standards at 79% for 2011," Motsoaledi said.
"While this is still short of the national target of 85%, we are getting closer each year to this target."
Motsoaledi also detailed a number of steps his department was taking to increase the number of doctors and nurses needed to implement the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.
The average number of matriculants sent by the department to study medicine in Cuba was increased from 60 a year to 80 last year, and would this year be increased to 1000, he said.
Increasing the intake of medical students
The Health department had also been encouraging the country's eight medical schools to increase their intake of medical students - with the University of the Witwatersrand having last year accepted 40 extra students, which the department covered with an additional R8-million.
The other universities followed this year and increased their intake by an overall total of 160 students, for which the department provided R48-million.
He said the department also plans to set up a new medical school in Limpopo province and to build a new tertiary hospital in Mpumalanga in anticipation of the new university planned to be set up there by 2014.
The department would also rebuild the other medical schools with their central hospitals, including: George Mukhari Central Hospital in Medunsa, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital under Wits University, King Edward VIII Hospital under the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine (University of KwaZulu-Natal) and the Walter Sisulu School of Medicine in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape province.
Lastly, a total of R1.2-billion would be spent by the department over the next three years to refurbish and re-equip 122 nursing colleges around the country.