The National Strategic Plan (NSP) represents South Africa’s fourth master plan that describes how they will respond to the treatment and prevention of HIV, tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted infections from 2017 to 2022. There are 10 different targets that the country needs to hit, but the question now is if they can really do it. The South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) revealed that they will publish a mid-term review of the NSP by August 2019.
In 2017, it was estimated that there were about 275,000 new HIV infections in South Africa that year. This statistic was provided by the Thembisa, which is a mathematical model, developed to describe various aspects of the HIV epidemic in the country. On the other hand, a nationwide survey revealed that there were at least 231,000 new HIV infections in 2017. Seeing is how this number is quite high, it may be difficult for South Africa to reach one of the key targets of the NSP – to reduce new HIV infections to less than 88,000 by the year 2020.
The initial target was to reduce the number to less than 100,000 by 2022. This was also very ambitious and probably would’ve been extremely hard to reach. Nevertheless, the goal has become much harder when it was adjusted to be in line with the global United Nations prevention road map. According to the strategies developed by the United Nations, the plan is to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
Another very important target that the country needs to reach is to reduce annual new HIV infections in girls and women aged 15 to 24 to 30,000 by the year 2022. This is a huge issue in South Africa today. The only way for girls and women to live without having to worry about AIDS is to ensure they have equal access as men to healthcare education, and opportunities to earn a living. Gender inequality is a big reason why so many girls and young women get infected with HIV. Girls usually don’t get the same education as boys and don’t understand how to protect themselves.
In order to reach this goal, girls and women will need to stop facing such high rates of domestic abuse and economic inequality. On top of that, the barriers to health services and education need to be eliminated. Nevertheless, seeing as how the Thembisa model estimated that there were around 81,000 new infections in this age group of the female demographic in 2017, it’s unlikely that South Africa will able to meet this NSP target.
There are certain targets that the country will reach, as it is doing very well when it comes to HIV testing. One of the targets is for 90% of all people living with HIV to know they’re infected with the virus. According to the Thembisa model, 90% of all people living with HIV already know their status. On the other hand, the South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey from 2017 concluded that 85% of those living with HIV know their status.
However, the problem is that there are too many people in South Africa who are living with HIV but aren’t receiving any type of treatment. The biggest challenge that our country currently faces in this battle is to support this huge number of people living with HIV and provide treat their conditions. But this won’t be easy with a dysfunctional healthcare system in place.
Another crisis that South Africa still faces is tuberculosis. Nevertheless, it seems that the rates are slowly coming down and that the epidemic is not as big as experts previously thought. Still, the biggest issue with TB is that many people who live with it are not diagnosed. This needs to change in order for South Africa to meet NSP targets.