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Health Minister Calls For Ramped Up Fight Against HIV/AIDS In South Africa

South African health minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Tuesday called for a reinvigorated effort in the country’s fight against HIV/AIDS, echoing comments recently made by South African President Jacob Zuma, Agence France-Presse reports. Motsoaledi said to reporters, “In 11 years – from 1997 to 2008 – the rate of death has doubled in South Africa” (11/10).

According to SAPA/Times LIVE, “Researchers attribute the sharp rise in the total number of registered deaths to the AIDS pandemic.” Motsoaledi “said the figures called for a ‘massive change in behaviour and attitude’ toward AIDS among South Africans,” the news service reports (11/10).

According to Bloomberg, the South African government hopes to “reduce new HIV infections by half and provide treatment to 80 percent of those who need it by 2011.” Motsoaledi called for “the biggest voluntary counseling and testing program ever seen in the world” to improve patient access to treatment, Bloomberg writes.

Additionally, authorities are exploring ways to reduce the cost of drugs and increase access to condoms. “Prevention is still the mainstay of dealing with each and every disease,” Motsoaledi said (Cohen, 11/10).

Business Day examines Motsoaledi’s proposal for voluntary HIV tests to be integrated into routine care. Additionally, Motsoaledi is “leading a government charge to get more people to take voluntary tests,” the newspaper notes, adding that the “measures are meant to increase acceptance of testing and raise the proportion of HIV-positive people who know their status, in the hope that they will take precautions to protect others from infection and seek help if they fall ill” (Kahn, 11/11).

PlusNews examines a television ad running in South Africa in November that “aims to reach deaf people with vital information about how to protect themselves from HIV.” Brothers for Life, the group behind the ad, has also started reaching out to the country’s blind population with brochures about HIV prevention in Braille, PlusNews reports (11/10).