HIV declines as Limpopo ramps up treatment

Lebowakgomo - A nurse living with HIV received a standing ovation in the Limpopo Provincial Legislature after her moving social media post was read to the house during the tabling of the provincial Health Budget Vote on Thursday.

Limpopo Health MEC, Dr Phophi Ramathuba, said she met the nurse, Angela Motsusi, on a social media platform, Facebook.

Dear HIV, I made a promise to myself in my heart that you would never defeat me if you ever came into my bodyYou must have thought you are going to destroy me, but hey, I am one tough cookie and life had prepared me for you. In 2014, I started my treatment, you being so high and mighty became powerless in a matter of weeks, MEC Ramathuba read one of Motsusi's posts to the house.

The MEC said the department has made great strides in the battle against HIV and Aids during the 2016/17 financial year, exceeding the national testing target of 1.4 million people within nine months.

She said the department is now planning to test more than one million people this financial year to meet national targets.

In line with the new policy on test and treat, we have managed to initiate treatment on 52 256 of those clients found to be HIV positive, which brings the total number of patients on ART to 295 983, said MEC Ramathuba.

She said the province aims to initiate a further 61 078 new patients on ART during the 2017/18 financial year.

These patients would have died if it was not through this intervention, said MEC Ramathuba.

The province has also managed to reduce the transmission of HIV from mother to child from 2% to 1.1%.

The MEC announced that the budget for the comprehensive HIV and Aids program had increased by 13.7% to R1.3 billion.

Of this, said MEC Ramathuba, R479 million will be used for the provision of Antiretroviral drugs to all the province's HIV positive patients.

According to United Nations Aids (UNAids), there were 36.7 million people living with HIV globally in 2015 and as of June last year, 18.2 million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy. The figure was up from 15.8 million in June 2015 and 7.5 million in 2010.

South Africa has one of the most successful ARV treatment programs in the world, with an estimated 3.5 million infected people receiving treatment as at 2016. The national Department of Health is also running the biggest HIV testing campaign in the world, which saw 18 million people tested for the virus in 18 months in 2010.

An estimated 10 million South Africans test for HIV on an annual basis. As a result of this program, Aids deaths in South Africa declined from 320 000 in 2010 to 140 000 in 2014, and mother-to-child transmission of HIV reduced from 70 000 babies in 2004 to less than 7 000 in 2015.

During his Budget Vote Speech in Parliament in May last year, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced that the department would implement a new evidence-based policy of offering ART to all people living with HIV by September last year.

This means that people who test positive for the virus are now immediately initiated on ART regardless of their CD-4 count. Previously only patients with a certain level of CD-4 count could be initiated on ART.

MEC Ramathuba announced that the provincial health budget for 2017/18 is R18 billion, which consists of a R15.4 billion equitable share, R2.4 billion conditional grants and R183.9 million of the department's own revenue. She said this presented a 5.5% increase from the previous financial year's budget.

In a drive to eradicate shortage of key personnel in public health care services, MEC Ramathuba announced that they have appointed 13 medical specialists, 269 medical doctors and 639 professional nurses in the previous financial year.

In the 2017/18 financial year we will reinforce our professional health workforce by recruiting an additional 10 medical specialists, 200 medical doctors and 250 professional nurses, said MEC Ramathuba.

She also announced that public health care clinics are now moving towards a 24-hour operation unlike at present where they close for service at 16h30.

Source: South African Government News Agency

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