There are signs that South Africa is starting to make gains and turn the tide in the battle against AIDS.
The latest UNAIDS report shows, from 2009 to 2011, child infections dropped in South Africa by 49%, in Zimbabwe by 45% and in Botswana by 22% and the overall incidence of infection dropped from 2,9% to 1,8%.
Government now has in place a number of policies that are starting to bear fruit but, while the necessary may be there, capacity to implement those policies remains a challenge.
“South Africa has the necessary policies and resources to improve human resource indicators such as under-five mortality and maternal mortality. However, it lacks the implementation capacity to translate these policies into broad-based results. Decline in both measures of human welfare has been slow. Substantial progress, however, has been made in fighting malnutrition, mother-to-child transmission of HIV, as well as increased immunization coverage and access to free health care. The national mother-to-child HIV transmission rate fell to 3.5% in 2010 from 8.5% in 2009.”
These are among the key findings of the just published Africa Outlook report in its South Africa-specific section. The report was co-written by the African Development Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Centre, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).
In a recent article in Leadership Magazine, Piet Coetzer wrote: "South Africa has effectively scaled up the implementation of national HIV and AIDS initiatives, providing voluntary counselling and testing in more than 95% of health facilities and an increase in the provision of anti-retroviral (ARV) therapy as well as the introduction of a dual therapy policy, for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission.
"However, although it has the largest ARV treatment programme in the world, the country has not achieved the goal of universal access to ARV treatment and it is unlikely to achieve the goal of halting and reversing the spread of HIV and tuberculosis by 2015."
Can't be fought in isolation
But the scourge of AIDS cannot be fought in isolation and contributing factors such as poverty and a lack of education also need to be tackled. But the numbers show the South African government is also making headway in these areas.
South Africa has achieved the goal of universal access to primary education for children up to the age of 13 who constitute nearly 30% of the country’s population. School attendance for those aged 7-13 reached 98.4% for boys and 98.8% for girls in 2009, while the functional literacy rate also rose from 88% in 1999 to 91% in 2009.
And Government's anti-poverty strategy, that identifies the most vulnerable and poorest sections of society, has succeeded in reducing the proportion of people living on less than US$1 per day from 11.0% to 5.0% between 1994 and 2010. With this achievement, South Africa more than halved the population living in extreme poverty.
In 2010 the no-fee school policy was extended from the poorest 40% of pupils to the poorest 60%. As a result, 8.1 million students in 20 000 schools gained access to free education.
"While there is no doubt gains are being made there is still a long way to go and the simple fact is, Government cannot do everything," says Carryou General Manager, Rev. Lawrence Mabaso.
"Everyone is going to have to help -- the private sector, individuals and organisations like Carryou. We are, after all, brothers and sisters together on this planet."
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