Mabuza commits to fight against HIV/AIDS following protest

2013-04-25 08:59

Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza has bowed to pressure following civil rights group’s accusations that he was shirking his responsibility to lead the fight against HIV/Aids.

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and the National Association of People with Aids (Napwa) have been complaining that Mabuza had never attended any of the Mpumalanga Provincial Aids Council’s meetings, which he should be chairing, and has rendered the council dysfunctional.

Mpumalanga’s HIV/Aids prevalence has increased by two percentage points, from 34.7% in 2009 to 36.7%, according to the health department’s 2011 National Antenatal Sentinel HIV and Syphilis Prevalence Survey.

The province has the second highest HIV-Aids prevalence, after KwaZulu-Natal’s 37.4%. The coal-mining hub of Gert Sibande is leading all districts in the country with a prevalence of 46.1%. The district’s prevalence increased by 7.9% according to the latest statistics.

Mabuza has committed himself to the cause, following a march by the TAC and Napwa in Secunda on Friday.

His spokesperson, Zibonele Mncwango, said Mabuza would now ensure the Mpumalanga Provincial Aids Council was functional.

“The first Aids council meeting will be set up in May, and the premier is planning to work with traditional healers to encourage as many men as possible to circumcise,” said Mncwango.

Mabuza had delegated the responsibility of chairing the council to former health MEC Clifford Mkasi.

Napwa and the TAC argued that owing to his position, Mkasi did not have the clout to force mayors to account and ensure that district and local Aids councils functioned, and also to rally all stakeholders.

Mkasi said the council’s failure could not be blamed on an individual. The solution, he said, “lay in availing human and financial resources, establishment of permanent administration and getting buy-in and participation from all stakeholders.”

The TAC’s December 2012 report, titled: “The mess in Mpumalanga”, said the provincial council was launched in 2009 almost three years after the National Strategic Plan on HIV, sexually-transmitted infections and TB was finalised.

“It might have taken even longer, had it not been for pressure exerted by civil society organisations including [TAC],” the report said.

“Once formed, the [council] appears to have done little meaningful work. The Provincial Strategic Plan (PSP) 2007-2011 was drawn up by the [council] mainly for compliance purposes. The drafting process concluded in 2010, a year before the end of the plan itself. The PSP was never implemented due to its lateness.”

In KwaZulu-Natal, where premier Zweli Mkhize has been active in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the prevalence dropped by just over two persentage points since 2009 – from 39.5% to 37.4% – and districts with a prevalence above 40% were reduced from five to three.

KwaZulu-Natal’s milestones in the HIV-Aids battle include:

» Mother-to-child transmission being reduced from 22% in 2008 to 2.8% in 2010 and 2.2% in 2011;

» Its antiretroviral treatment being the largest in the country by reaching 550 000 patients;

» More than two million people being tested since 2008, and 235 966 males have been circumcised.

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