SA's war on HIV makes massive gains‚ but more must be done

18 July 2016 - 16:20 By Matthew Savides

South Africa has made massive gains in preventing mother-to-child HIV and Aids infections‚ but a lot more needs to be done. This is according to Anthony Lake‚ United Nations Children's Fund executive director‚ who was speaking at the 21st International Aids Conference in Durban on Monday.Lake said the country should be proud of its growing legacy of lives saved and improved. There is “almost universal HIV testing among pregnant women”‚ and there has been a drop of 80% in new infections among children since 2002. On top of this‚ since 2008‚ the rate of mother-to-child infections had dropped from 8% to 1.5%.AIDS summit opens with warnings that progress at riskHe said South Africa's commitment and progress towards dealing with mother-to-child transmissions was “an inspiring model for other countries travelling the same path”.“But these achievements are best reflected not in statistics‚ but in the happiest measurement of all: in individual lives. A pregnant woman is now about to be tested for HIV and hoping for a negative result‚ but knowing she'll receive treatment if the news is bad. A boy born HIV free living a normal and healthy childhood. Or parents watching their daughter grow strong and healthy because she's getting the treatment that she needs. Everyone involved in this effort in South Africa deserves our admiration and applause‚” said Lake.However‚ he said it was not enough to stop here.“These successes also spur us to finish the job; we cannot forget the lives that are still being left behind. That means finishing the job on mother to child transmission‚ providing high quality HIV treatment to all infected women and maintaining that treatment throughout their lives. It means urgently scaling up HIV testing‚ treatment and services‚ especially for adolescents and the most at risk adolescents‚ girls. Above all‚ it means not giving up the fight we began three decades ago‚” he said.“Despite our wonderful progress we are still grappling with a disease that needlessly claims hundreds of lives a day – a disease we know how to prevent and how to treat‚” he said.

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