South Africa launches the new National Strategic Plan (NSP) on HIV, TB and STIs

Apr 3, 2017

Panellists giving an overview of the current HIV, TB and STIs response, challenges and achievements and perspectives on the new NSP (L-R): Steve Letsike - SANAC Deputy Chairperson, John Wallington – Executive VP Sibanye Gold, Jessye Lapenn – Charge D’Affaires ,US Embassy, Xolisile Qayiso - COSATU, Michel Sidibe-UNAIDS Executive Director and Dr Aaron Motsoaledi—Minister of Health Photo: UNAIDS

South Africa has made great strides in its AIDS response—it has the largest HIV treatment programme in the world, with more than 3.7 million people on antiretroviral therapy, funded almost entirely from domestic sources; AIDS-related deaths have declined by more than 55% since 2005; and around 95% of all pregnant women living with HIV in South Africa now have access to medicines to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to their child.

South Africa is continually striving to do more to stop new HIV infections and prevent AIDS-related deaths and on 31 March launched its third five-year South African National Strategic Plan on HIV, sexually Transmitted Infections and Tuberculosis (2017–2022) (NSP) under the slogan “Let Our Actions Count”. The plan was launched at an event in Bloemfontein, by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa who is also the chair of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC).

The Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, and the following Heads of Agencies were present at the event to show their support for the new plan; UNAIDS Country Director, Erasmus Mora; UNDP Country Director, Walid Badawi; UNFPA Representative, Esther Muia and WHO Representative Rufaro Chatora

UNDP has contributed to the development of the new NSP in two significant ways; supporting the writing of the human rights chapter and lobbying and influencing for the inclusion of co-financing as a strategy for sustainable financing of the HIV epidemic in South Africa.

“UNDP is the lead agency in convening Outcome 1 of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), which focuses mainly on the governance and financing of the AIDS response. This ensures that there is sustainability in financing of the NSP. In this regard, UNDP lobbied both during the consultations and the writing of the NSP for co-financing to be included as a key strategy for sustainable financing of the AIDS response. This suggestion was well received and co-financing is one of the strategies included in the strategies in Goal 7 of the NSP” said Mr Badawi in a separate interview.

In his speech, the Deputy President reminded the gathering of the need for South Africans to hold hands in defeating the HIV and Tuberculosis epidemics as a way of putting the plan that has been launched into action.

“As we launch this third National Strategic Plan, we must remember that in the end it is a plan that belongs to all of us as South Africans. It invites South African leaders from different walks of life to take action to end the epidemics of HIV, Tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections. Defeating the HIV and Tuberculosis epidemics is going to rest on all of our shoulders,” he said.

Michel Sibide lauded South Africa as a global leader in the AIDS response and indicated that the country has demonstrated that it is possible to go to scale.

“We can see this in the number of people testing for HIV each year, people on HIV treatment and having the right political leadership,” he said.

The plan sets out bold and ambitious targets which include reducing new HIV infections from 270 000 to less than 100 000 per year, reducing new tuberculosis (TB) infections from 450 000 to less than 315 000 per year and reaching the 90–90–90 targets—whereby 90% of people living with HIV know their HIV status, 90% of people who know their HIV-positive status are accessing treatment and 90% of people on treatment have suppressed viral loads—by 2020.   

To achieve the targets the government and partners will use a combination of high-impact programmes in the locations and among the populations most affected by HIV.

The plan also outlines a special focus on HIV prevention among adolescent girls and young women, who have the highest rates of new HIV infections in South Africa—100 000 young women became newly infected in South Africa in 2015.

“We need to ensure that no one is left behind. The national response is about the people. We cannot do this if we don’t involve people. Our action will count,” said Steven Letsike, chairperson for South African National AIDS Council’s civil society forum.

The launch of the NSP is one of the highlights of TB month which is commemorated annually across the globe to raise awareness about Tuberculosis (TB). The NSP is the strategic guide for the national response to HIV, TB and STIs in South Africa. One of the objectives of the Plan is to intensify focus on geographic areas and populations most severely affected by the epidemics.

In July 2016, South Africa hosted the 21st International AIDS Conference 2016 (IAC 2016) opened on 18 July in Durban, South Africa. Under the theme “Access equity rights now,” the conference echoed UN’s call to leave no one behind and provide comprehensive HIV services to everyone in need.

The conference was officially opened by South Africa’s Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, United Nations former Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé, United Nations Messenger of Peace and actress Charlize Theron, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, IAC 2016 Co-Chairs Olive Shisana and Chris Beyrer and Nkhensani Mavasa of South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign.

The former UN Secretary-General commended countries and specifically South Africa for its progress in the fight against AIDS, particularly in giving access to treatment to people affected by HIV, recalling that the Durban Conference in 2000 had set very good guidelines to achieve such progress. However, he stressed that much remained to be done at the global level to ensure the ending of the epidemic by 2030.