The UNAIDS report, “Getting to zero: HIV in eastern and southern Africa”, released by UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibe highlighted that the countries of eastern and southern African were making important progress towards achieving an Aids-free generation.
It shows that the rate of new HIV infections have been reduced more than 30% between 2001 and 2011, 50% reduction in new child infections between the same years and 38% reduction in Aids related deaths between 2005 and 2011.
Since 2005, the report noted, the number of people receiving life-saving Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) has increased from 625 000 to more than 6 million at the end of 2012.
In 2010, South Africa embarked on an unprecedented national campaign to provide free treatment to all eligible people living with HIV, coupled with a massive programme of testing and counselling for HIV and screening for TB.
“The country currently has the largest ART programme in the world, with more than 2.1 million people receiving ART. South Africa’s domestic Aids investments have increased to US$ 1.9 billion per year, the second-largest national Aids investment in the world,” Sidibe noted.
He added that the countries in this region are using the latest tools available to save people’s lives, halt HIV transmission and achieve the dream of ending the Aids epidemic.
“Ten years ago, the magnitude of the epidemic supported the dire predictions being made for this region, the epicenter of the Aids crisis. But in only a few years, some of the most heavily-affected countries in the region have made extraordinary progress.
“Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda, Swaziland and Zambia reached universal access to HIV treatment (80% coverage for people eligible for treatment by end of 2011. Kenya, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe are on track to reach this goal,” the report noted.
Sidibe attributed this dramatic turn-around in the course of the Aids epidemic to extraordinary political leadership and engagement from civil society.
He said that from the support of African heads of state for Aids Watch Africa, to the advocacy of the Champions for an HIV-Free Generation, high-level political advocacy and accountability have been critical to the region’s progress.
“The majority of countries in this region have embraced the African Union’s Roadmap on shared responsibility and global solidarity for the Aids, TB and Malaria response. South Africa has been an outstanding model of this transformation – implementing a series of breakthrough policy decisions since 2009,” Sidibe said.
Health Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said while South Africa has made progress in placing 2 million people on treatment, its aim is to reach 3.5 million people by 2015.
“We should keep the momentum going. We need to ensure that women continue to benefit from universal access to antiretroviral treatment so that we can reduce maternal mortality. No women or baby should be left behind,” said Dr Motsoaledi.
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