Agence France Presse (09.10.07) - Tuesday, September 11, 2007
At the first meeting of the newly formed South African
National AIDS Council (SANAC) on Monday in Pretoria, the
country's deputy president said plans to combat HIV/AIDS are
"on course." "There is work in progress. up until 2011," said
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Along with members of civil society,
controversial Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang
attended the meeting.
South Africa's National Strategic Plan, which aims to halve
new infections by 2011 and treat 80 percent of HIV patients in
need of antiretrovirals (ARVs), has been seen by international
experts as a turnaround in government policy. The country has
one of the world's worst HIV/AIDS epidemics with a prevalence
of 18.4 percent in 2006 and 5.41 million people infected.
Uncertainty had surrounded the meeting following the recent
firing of Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge,
regarded as one of the plan's creators. Madlala-Routledge was
a vocal critic of some of Tshabalala-Msimang's policies.
Despite concern about the government's commitment to the plan
ahead of the SANAC meeting, Treatment Action Campaign
spokesperson Mark Heywood said his group is "pleased with the
momentum driving the creation of strategies to deal with the
At the meeting, Tshabalala-Msimang, who has come under fire
for promoting vegetables over the use of ARVs, said SANAC was
briefed on major policy issues such as the role of male
circumcision as a prevention tool. She characterized the
results of several studies showing the procedure could lessen
the chance of female-to-male HIV transmission as "unfolding"
rather than "overwhelming", and said there is a need to
examine the socio-cultural impacts of implementing a