(Updates with comment by AIDS activist group in fourth paragraph, Zuma in last.)
Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- South Africa, which the United Nations says has the highest number of people infected with HIV, announced plans to cut new infections by half and provide medication to AIDS patients who need it within five years.
A government plan to combat AIDS released today also aims to ensure 70 percent of patients are alive and on treatment five years after starting it and targets a 50 percent cut in deaths from tuberculosis, the leading killer among AIDS patients.
South Africa drew international condemnation for failing to tackle the epidemic under former President Thabo Mbeki, who disputed the causal link between HIV and AIDS and delayed the provision of treatment. Since Mbeki was ousted in 2008, the government has said the fight against AIDS is a priority and has made medication available to more than 1.4 million people through the public health system.
“It is a bold plan,” the Treatment Action Campaign, an AIDS activists group, said today in an e-mailed statement. “South Africa is showing leadership at a time when many other parts of the world are retreating from their commitments on HIV. We have seen a revolution in the response to AIDS.”
AIDS claimed the lives of 282,578 South Africans last year, while about 5.6 million of the nation’s 50.6 million people are infected with HIV, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.
By the end of September 2,948 state hospitals and clinics were providing AIDS drugs, up from 495 at the beginning of last year, while 10,542 nurses were accredited to administer it, up from 290, President Jacob Zuma said today. More than 13 million people were tested for HIV between April last year and June this year, he said.
“We have stopped making HIV and AIDS a battlefield on which to fight one another,” Zuma said at a World AIDS Day rally in the southern coastal town of Port Elizabeth, where the plan was released. “We are steadily overcoming fear and confusion.”
--Editors: Karl Maier, Ben Holland
To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Cohen in Cape Town at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at email@example.com