Mlambo-Ngcuka takes lead on Aids

19 September 2006

Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has taken up a central role in the government's programme to combat HIV/Aids in South Africa, announcing measures to beef up the SA National Aids Council (Sanac), which she chairs, and mend relations with non-governmental organisations working in the field.

A new inter-ministerial committee set up by the government to monitor and strengthen the implementation of the state's HIV/Aids programme held its first meeting last week.

Mlambo-Ngcuka said after the meeting that the committee had discussed ways in which Sanac, the government's lead agency in the fight against HIV/Aids, could be strengthened.

It was agreed that the secretariat of the council would be beefed up to ensure that its operations were better managed and co-ordinated, she said, adding that Sanac would meet within the next six weeks to take this forward.

The committee will also call on all Sanac members to ensure that they are represented by senior members at future meetings. For its part, the government would "ensure it is also represented at the level of ministers and directors-general," the committee said in a statement.

Building a national partnership
The Deputy President's office will also take steps to ensure interaction with all other players in the fight against HIV/Aids in the country.

"The meeting underscored the need to take concrete steps to mend relations and raise the level of interaction between government and stakeholder groupings."

According to the committee, a number of non-governmental organisations, including the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and the National Association of People Living with HIV/Aids (Napwa), had expressed interest in meeting with the government.

Government Communications said such meetings would take place first with directors-general, followed by meetings with the Deputy President and other members of the inter-ministerial committee.

These meetings would "help create a conducive environment for constructive interaction between government and the various players, and will go a long way towards clearing the misunderstandings that have existed in the sector," Government Communications said.

Improving communication
The departments implementing SA's HIV/Aids programme will also work with Government Communications to improve communication on the programme, both at home and abroad.

The government said on the weekend that South Africa's 53 health districts each have at least one HIV/Aids service point providing comprehensive services, including anti-retroviral therapy, and ranging from prevention to terminal palliative care.

At least 250 laboratories have been certified to provide support to the state's HIV/Aids programme, while three pharmacovigilance centres have been set up to monitor and investigate any adverse reactions to treatment.

By the end of June, the government said, over 178 635 patients had been initiated on anti-retroviral therapy. "To date, 254 facilities are implementing the comprehensive plan, covering 72% of the country's sub-districts."

SouthAfrica.info reporter and BuaNews

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