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HIV and AIDS Pregnancies Considerably Reduced- South African Health Minister

The controversial health minister of South Africa, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang returned to spotlights when she announced that there is a considerable decrease in the HIV and AIDS pregnancies among the women of South Africa. No figures were given.

"This is mainly as a result of our continued focus on prevention as the mainstay of our response to combat HIV and lead to an HIV-free society," Minister told parliament during a speech on her departmental budget.

The data was derived from the number of pregnant women visiting the public antenatal clinics. The department and its partners have also developed the National Strategic Plan for HIV and AIDS for 2007-2011 which builds on the gains of the Strategic Plan for 2000-2005.

It aims to achieve a 50 percent reduction of new infections by 2011 and provide an appropriate package of treatment, care and support services. The package of care provided for in the plan includes counseling and testing services as an entry point; healthy lifestyle interventions, including nutritional support; treatment of opportunistic infections; anti-retroviral therapy and monitoring and evaluation to assess progress and share research.

She said We have re-launched the Government HIV and AIDS communication programme, Khomanani which has been allocated R190 million for a two year period. "This communication programme encourages responsible sexual behavior and mobilize access to treatment, care and support services for those who are infected and affected," she said.

Tshabalala-Msimang has long been at loggerheads with activists and doctors for her unorthodox views on HIV/AIDS. Her support of a nutrition-based approach to fighting the virus stands in contrast to mainstream scientific support for anti-retroviral (ARV) drug treatment.

Tshabalala-Msimang said on Thursday that more than 282,836 patients at 355 accredited facilities received ARV medication by the end of Marc h. The government has said it hopes to have one million people on ARV treatment by 2011.

South Africa is widely considered to have the best healthcare on the continent, but suffers a crippling shortage of healthcare workers and a high rate of poverty.

South Africa has one of the highest prevalence of HIV cases. A 1000 death are reported each day due to aids. During the last financial year, more than 439 million male and more than three million female condoms were distributed.

UNAIDS executive director Peter Piot told reporters at the third South African AIDS conference in Durban that if there is one thing that works and that prevents people from HIV, it is condoms,Though condoms are widely accessible and affordable they are not very popular with males in Africa as they consider it as prophylactics cut down on their sexual pleasure.

Methods such as male circumcision, abstinence and social programmes designed to combat violence against women were among the weapons that would protect people from the virus.


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