Young people between 15 and 24 have been identified as the priority by the country’s new HIV/AIDS strategic plan, due to be presented to the country on Friday (1 Dec).

The key aims of the National Strategic Plan 2007-2011 are to drastically reduce the numbers of people getting infected with HIV and to minimise the impact of HIV on people already infected.

The initial targets contained in the plan have been scrapped after organisations such as the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and the HIV Clinicians’ Society complained that they were too low.

At a special meeting this week of the SA National AIDS Council (SANAC), which is driving the development of the plan, it was agreed that targets will be set at a consultative conference in March next year.

SANAC also agreed that a technical task team of HIV/AIDS experts would be set up to refine the initial targets.

Between now and the March conference, different sectors – including youth and women – will hold summits on the plan.

A SANAC meeting, to be chaired by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and attended by decision-makers from sectoral organisations, will meet immediately after the national conference to finalise targets.

These targets will also be closely monitored – including by national surveys to see whether the incidence of HIV is dropping and behavioural surveys to see whether people are engaging in less risky sex.

Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) general secretary Sipho Mthati said that there had been “some hiccups” in the process of developing plan.

“But we have been able to engage with government and raise our difficulties and feel that we are being listened to,” said Mthati.

The plan also addresses one of the biggest stumbling blocks to getting antiretroviral treatment to all those who need it – the shortage of health staff.

It recommends that there should be one government employee dedicated to HIV/AIDS per 100 000 people. To achieve this, it calls for the “fast-tracking the recruitment of foreign doctors and pharmacists” and for private health practitioners to be contracted to help.

Treasury is currently working out how much the plan will cost, and it is expected that provinces will get conditional grants specifically to implement the plan.

Kerry Cullinan


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