UK boost for South Africa in new struggle against Aids

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The Independent Online

South Africa's revitalised drive against AIDS today received a £15 million boost which could help save millions of lives and stop the spread of HIV across the country.

International Development Minister Ivan Lewis travelled to Johannesburg ahead of World AIDS Day to offer the new South African Health Minister, Barbara Hogan, direct UK support as she embarks upon a new drive to tackle the HIV epidemic.

Ms Hogan's recent appointment has signalled a significant change in direction in the fight against HIV and AIDS after years of inaction, misinformation and denial.

Ivan Lewis said: "For too long, South Africa has been fighting AIDS with its hands tied behind its back - with over 5.5 million people living with HIV. Those ties have now been removed and the country has a real opportunity finally to turn the tide in its struggle against this epidemic."

"Barbara Hogan has set a bold and exciting vision on HIV and AIDS and that is why the UK is fully committed to working with her as she embarks on this new approach. We must ensure this new direction is irreversible and that there are no more lost opportunities to save lives."

"If we manage to control and then reverse HIV and AIDS in South Africa there will be a positive knock-on effect across Southern Africa and the continent. I call on the people of South Africa to unite behind this effort and finally call time on the HIV epidemic.".

The UK support plan will help South Africa deliver:

- More protection for mothers and babies. There will be an increase in the availability of free tests for mothers during pregnancy, and anti-HIV drugs for pregnant mothers and children. Isolated and rural areas will be specifically targeted. It is estimated that over 45,000 lives could be saved every year..

- National HIV awareness campaign. Information on safe-sex and HIV health issues will be sent out via radio, newspaper, text messages and street posters. The multi-media campaign is expected to reach 9 in 10 South Africans - over 43 million people.

- Better nurses, doctors and clinics. Medical staff and managers will be helped to improve the quality of advice and service to patients, and staff morale improved through stronger incentives for quality care. Training will be offered to improve the quality and efficiency of services.

- HIV and AIDS 'watchdog'. The National AIDS Council (SANAC) will be strengthened and given a clearer remit to hold all parts of government to account, as well as frontline agencies involved in tackling HIV and delivering health services

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