Cape Town — South Africa is on track to reach its target of supplying antiretroviral treatment (ARVs) to 2.5 million people by the year 2014, says the Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini.
Dlamini was speaking at the launch of the State of the World Population 2012 report in the sprawling Imizamo Yethu settlement in Cape Town. The report, compiled by the United Nations Population Fund, was released worldwide on Wednesday.
The minister said that the fight against HIV and Aids was having some positive results. The mother-to-child transmission rate had declined from 8 percent in 2008 to 3.5 percent in 2011, "ensuring that annually over 30 000 babies are protected from infection and poor health".
The rate of infections in the 15-24 age group had also decreased from 1.4 percent to 0.8 percent.
"In addition, significant progress has been made in initiating people on treatment. As a result at the end of 2011, 1.7 million people had been initiated on antiretroviral treatment, an increase from 1.1 million people in 2009, and we appear to be on track to meet the target of 2.5 million by 2014," she said.
Interventions such as the provision of income support in the form of social grants to the poor also contributed to child survival. To date, more than 1.1 million children are recipients of this grant.
"Over the years, research has shown that social grants empower women in poor communities to make important decisions, including family planning and the education of their children, about themselves and their families," said Dlamini.
In the present economic climate, social protection mitigated the impact on vulnerable women and children.
South Africa was proud of the progress it was making in implementing the International Conference on Population Development programme of action, but the minister acknowledged that there were still challenges.
"[These include that] a considerable proportion of women in the world are still unable to exercise their sexual health and reproductive rights. Many still lack access to reproductive health and information.
"They are victims of gender-based and sexual violence, which makes them vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and Aids. This harms their health and denies them opportunities of a better life for themselves and families."
Dlamini reaffirmed government's commitment to a human rights-based approach in the provision of health care.
"We also recognise the significant impact of strengthening family planning, particularly in the context of climate change, sustainable development and poverty education."