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SA, US boost fight against Aids

Andrew Quinn

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and SA Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane have signed an agreement to bolster the fight against Aids in SA.

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on Tuesday signed a partnership framework that will guide future efforts to combat HIV/Aids in South Africa.

The partnership framework, under the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar), means a new five-year deal with South Africa to bolster its Aids fight, signalling a deepening cooperation between Washington and a country once depicted as representing the wrong approach to the Aids pandemic.

“We are here at a moment when South Africa is turning the tide against HIV/Aids. It is exciting to see,” said Clinton, who signed the five-year deal with Nkoana-Mashabane in Washington, DC.

Eric Goosby, president of Pepfar, said the agreement would commit the US to working with South Africa as it identifies its own Aids-fighting priorities, with an emphasis on helping to build up the country’s overall medical infrastructure.

‘Extraordinary’ level of trust
The US contributes about $560-million a year to South Africa under Pepfar, and Goosby said funding levels were expected to remain roughly constant for the country, where 1 000 people die from Aids-related illnesses each day.

“We have developed a level of trust that is extraordinary,” Goosby said. “They are revealing needs and vulnerabilities, and their ability to move forward has allowed us to have a heads-up on where their areas are that we can help.”

South Africa was criticised under former president Thabo Mbeki, who questioned accepted Aids science and failed to make life-prolonging Aids drugs widely available.

Mbeki’s successor, President Jacob Zuma, has taken a different approach, promising drugs to more people and fighting the deep social stigma attached to the disease.

South Africa has been approved for more than $300-million in support from the Global Fund for Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria and devotes more than twice that amount from its own budget to fighting the disease.—Reuters

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