President Jacob Zuma today, 18 January 2013, met UNAIDS Executive Director and Under Secretary-General Mr Michel Sidibe at his Mahlamba-Ndlopfu residence in Pretoria. Mr Sidibé congratulated President Zuma and South Africa on the strides the country is making in the global fight against HIV and AIDS.
He appealed to South Africa to "lead all efforts in Africa, especially in manufacturing their own medicine and thus reduce dependency on countries outside the continent". Mr Sidibé said he was particularly impressed by the South African government's crucial policy interventions and sound leadership since 2009 that have led to achievements in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
"I am pleased to have met Mr Sidibé and discussed various ways in which the fight against the disease in Africa and indeed the whole world would be intensified. We appreciate the support of UNAIDS in this difficult battle against the epidemic," said President Zuma.
President Zuma reiterated that the country had moved from very difficult times indeed on HIV and AIDS to a success story in a short space of time, citing the decreased rate of new infections from 1.4% to 0.8% in the 15-24 age group and that the country now had more than 1.7 million South Africans on antiretroviral treatment which had improved life expectancy dramatically.
"We have about 2 948 public health facilities now initiating patients on antiretroviral treatment compared to 495 in January 2010. One of our greatest success stories is the remarkable 50% reduction in mother-to-child transmission of HIV from about 8% in 2008 to 3,5% in 2011," said President Zuma.
It was also remarkable, the President said, that more than 20 million people had been tested for HIV through the HIV Counselling and Testing Campaign he launched publicly in 2010. "This indicates that the stigma around the disease is being eradicated, which will assist our continued prevention efforts and the rate of new HIV infections looks set to decline over the coming years as we deepen our existing programmes" the President added.