Potchefstroom — The journey towards an AIDS free world has begun and South Africa is on the right path, says Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
"Our common vision of an AIDS free world is now possible and attainable, let's continue to strive towards its realisation," he said while commemorating World AIDS Day in Potchefstroom on Saturday.
The Deputy President commended the Department of Health for being instrumental in enabling the country to introduce a single dose of the triple combination of tenofovir, entricitabine and efavirenz for people living with HIV starting from April next year.
These new drugs will enable people living with HIV to take only one pill a day to maintain their health. Motlanthe said this will help government to save up to R2.2 billion over two years with a 38 percent reduction in drug costs.
Motlanthe said the increase in life expectancy from 56 to 60 years between 2008 and 2011 can be attributed to expanding access to anti-retroviral treatment.
He said there was also a reduction in the rate of infection of mother to child transmission from 8 percent in 2008 to 3.5 percent in 2010 and 2.7 percent in 2011.
According to the Deputy President, the rate of new infections has also declined especially in young people and this is attributed to adoption of safer sex practices and reduction in the number of sexual partners.
In terms of screening, he said 800 000 diagnostic tests for TB using the new Gene Expert technology have been done and government was working further on decreasing the time frame between diagnosis and treatment.
Motlanthe also announced that more people were now enrolling onto the anti-retroviral programme, bringing the total number of people on treatment to 1.9 million to date.
He said South Africa has used best practice and evidence to guide its interventions such as the home-grown circumcision programme which has reached 619 000 medical male circumcision.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi urged the nation to play safe to curb new HIV infections. "As a nation, let's play safe to curb new HIV infections. We want to encourage each South African to do an HIV test once per year," he said.
World AIDS Day is celebrated on December 1 each year around the world. It has become one of the most recognised international health days and a key opportunity to raise awareness, commemorate those who have passed on, and celebrate victories such as increased access to treatment and prevention services.