South Africa launches AIDS plan

At the end of April the South African government released a new national AIDS plan, outlining the country's strategy to combat the epidemic. At the end of 2006, there were 5.5 million South Africans living with HIV/AIDS, according to estimates from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and the number of HIV-infected individuals continues to rise. In response to these grim statistics, the 160-page plan includes a proposal for halving the number of new HIV infections by 2011 through improved prevention programs. It also proposes improving the diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, providing life-saving antiretroviral treatment to 80% of the estimated one million South Africans that are in need, and reducing the rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV to below 5% over the next five years—all at an estimated cost of US$6 billion.

The "HIV and AIDS and STI Strategic Plan for South Africa, 2007-2011" was prepared following extensive consultation with government officials, UNAIDS, research institutions operating in the country, and several civil society representatives. The release of this comprehensive plan was lauded by many organizations, including the Treatment Action Campaign and the AIDS Law Project, which have been critical of the government's sluggish response to the AIDS epidemic, and was also endorsed by the recently restructured South African National AIDS Council.