24 July 2012
South Africa’s multi-sectoral approach and partnership between government and civil society has helped the country turn the tide against HIV/Aids, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said during a panel discussion at the 19th International Aids Conference (Aids 2012) in Washington, DC on Monday.
Motlanthe is addressing two special sessions at the week-long conference, the largest and most important global gathering on HIV/Aids.
The first, “How do we get there? Country planning for maximum impact”, took place on Monday, while the second, “China, India, South Africa, Brazil: How will they use their leadership to advance the Aids response?” was due to take place on Tuesday.
Monday’s session explored practical ways in which country plans could be shaped and efforts mobilized for maximum public health impact using both in-country resources and international resources such as the Global Fund.
Other panellists included Ukraine, the United States and Rwanda. The latter has an HIV prevalence of 2.9 percent and its response to the Aids epidemic has been widely praised.
Motlanthe said South Africa had come a long way since the days in which the government and civil society pulled in different directions in their responses to HIV/Aids.
“As a country, we started on a shaky footing,” Motlanthe said. “Our responses were not well coordinated and often government and civil society pulled in different directions.
“The multi-sectoral approach which finds expression through the South African National Aids Council (Sanac) has improved our coordination and responses.”
Sanac is the official body that coordinates the South African government’s policy response to HIV/Aids through overseeing the implementation of the National Strategic Plan on HIV/Aids. It is chaired by the Deputy President and has 19 sectors represented within it.
Asked what lessons South Africa can share with other countries on its approach to HIV/Aids, Motlanthe said: “There has to be unity of purpose with a clear strategy and programme behind which all sectors and citizens in general can be mobilized.”
He also emphasized the importance of coordination and integration within government itself, so that responses were not “in silos”.
“We have several national departments represented within Sanac and have an inter-ministerial committee led by the minister of health. We also have provincial councils on Aids which are chaired by our Premiers, and the governance and coordination structures cascade further down to our metros, local councils and wards.”
This integrated approach, he said, ensured that various sources of information – such as costing, planning, research and other evidence-based decision-making tools – were used to inform the government’s response to the epidemic.