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Health-E
AIDS tops Minister's agenda
Khopotso Bodibe
October 16, 2008
Improving our track record in dealing with HIV and AIDS is one of two key priority areas that the new Health Minister, Barbara Hogan, says she will focus on in the next six months.

"Health is difficult, it's complex, it's a whole range of things, it's under enormous stresses from HIV and AIDS. But we should be able to effect a turn-around within a period of five years", said Hogan.

Hogan displays an unmistakable passion for issues related HIV and AIDS. She speaks candidly about what needs to be done to successfully implement the National Strategic Plan for HIV and AIDS.

"I think the greatest success is having 550 000 people on treatment now. That alone helps us to take the burden off hospitals and institutions. That, I think is critical. We've got to accelerate it... and also Voluntary Counselling and Testing and getting people to come out more, to be comfortable with taking the treatment - the acceleration of that, but also the acceleration of the prevention of mother-to-child transmission. That should not be as complex as the antiretroviral rollout. Getting children free of any AIDS will help us so much in the future. Treatment is very, very important and needs to be expedited but prevention is equally as important. When we're seeing that the incidences are very high in the age of 25 - 40, we're talking about our economically active population. There, I think our prevention campaigns need more focus, more direction... It's encouraging that we seem to be seeing some kind of levelling off... but prevention is extremely important as well. We would be focusing on the quality of our prevention programmes, the efficacy of that".

Hogan said all this possible under the new political leadership of the country, which has pledged a will to make health a major priority going forward.

"Fortunately for me, I come in post-Polokwane where the Polokwane conference of the ruling party took as a decision that education and health must be the two priorities. And I'm seeing that already - that emphasis. Behind the scenes the ANC has been working very, very hard with a number of very skilled and very experienced people on a programme around HIV and AIDS and health generally and diagnosing where the problems are. And I'm fairly certain that health and education are going to receive the priority that they do require. I do not anticipate that we will have the kind of resistance that might have occurred in earlier times to the issues of health. I think there's a common recognition in Cabinet that this is something that has to be driven. That's what I was told by the President and the SG of the ANC, that is, 'you've been appointed, you've got to sort out these issues'."



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