South African President Promises to Do More To Treat HIV

December 2, 2009

South Africa has promised to overhaul the treatment of HIV/AIDS patients within the African nation.  In a speech marking World AIDS Day, December 1, President Jacob Zuma outlined a number of policy changes, which he hopes will be put in place before April 2010.

The BBC reported that UK’s Department for International Development welcomed the changes, saying, “South Africa has turned a corner and is embarking on a new and bold drive to take responsibility for tackling HIV and Aids.  The UK will continue to support South Africa to realize its ambition of reducing new HIV infections and increasing access to effective treatments.”

Zuma announced all South African babies under the age of one will be treated if they test HIV-positive and promised more anti-retrovirals – ‘drugs which the previous government said were too costly’, according to the BBC.

In his speech, President Zuma said, “Let there be no more shame, no more blame, no more discrimination and no more stigma. Let the politicization and endless debates about HIV and Aids stop.”

The speech conveyed a completely different message than the previous president who outright denied any correlation between the HIV virus and AIDS.

However, not every is so confident in the leaders abilities to raise awareness. Al-Jazeera English reports, “In some ways, Zuma is an unlikely champion for Aids activists.  In 2006, while being tried on charges of raping an HIV-positive woman, he was ridiculed for testifying that he took a shower after sex to lower the risk of Aids.

An estimated 59,000 babies are born with HIV every year in South Africa, adding to a country with highest number of people living with the virus- over 5 million.

AIDS IN SOUTH AFRICA

5.2m people with HIV

17% of people aged 15-49 HIV-positive

1.5m adults need Aids drugs in 2009

106,000 children under 15 need ARVs

413,000 new infections in 2009

59,000 of these are children

Source: Statistics South Africa

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