A new government initiative to fight HIV/Aids in South Africa was unveiled by Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor on Tuesday.
"South Africa is investigating every possible avenue to beat the virus," Pandor said at the launch of the SA HIV/Aids Research and Innovation Platform (Sharp) in Johannesburg, according to a statement issued by her department.
The initiative aims to combat HIV/Aids through scientific and technological research, the development of new drugs, diagnostic tests and vaccines. Pandor's department pledged R45 million to Sharp over three years.
The country last year had the highest number of people living with HIV in the world.
HIV prevalence has stabilised
It was "heartening" that South Africans were taking the "seriousness of the disease to heart" by changing their lifestyles, she said.
"HIV prevalence in the total South African population has stabilised at a level of around 11%. Moreover, there has been a decline in HIV prevalence among young people aged between 15 and 24, from 10,3% in 2005 to 8,6 percent in 2008, which is good news."
However, among adults aged 25 and over, the number of people living with HIV increased 1,3% between 2002 and 2008.
"What is encouraging, though, is the fact that the number of people, especially young people, who reported using a condom in their most recent sexual encounters has increased dramatically, which indicates that we are getting the 'safe sex' message across."
This offered hope in the country's battle with HIV. However, statistics were still too high and the country needed to step up efforts in fighting it. – (Sapa, July 2009)