April 26, 2010
South Africa Launches HIV/AIDS Plan, President Zuma Discloses HIV Status
Following years of AIDS denialist leadership, South Africa has launched what the United Nations is calling the largest and fastest expansion of HIV/AIDS services ever attempted by any single country, The New York Times reports.
On April 25, President Jacob Zuma announced a campaign to test 15 million of the country’s 49 million people for HIV by June of next year. In a speech in Johannesburg, he publicly disclosed his HIV negative status “to eradicate the silence and stigma that accompanies this epidemic.” A photograph of his April 8 HIV test appeared in newspapers across the country.
According to the article, the South African Finance Ministry has budgeted an extra $1 billion to broaden access to antiretroviral medication, putting a million more people on treatment in the next few years. This would double the current caseload.
Zuma’s predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, questioned whether HIV caused AIDS and believed antiretroviral medications were harmful. Harvard University researchers estimated that the government could have prevented 365,000 AIDS-related deaths over the last decade if it had provided HIV medications to HIV-positive South Africans.
Zuma’s initiative will also train thousands of doctors and nurses to ensure that each of the country’s 4,333 public clinics can dispense HIV medications.