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 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
"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