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Aids does not spell doomsday for SA

South Africa’s economy will be affected by the impact of HIV-Aids, but it would be wrong to forecast a doomsday scenario, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said.

”We are dealing with the great unknown and what’s important is that we maintain a real perspective on issues,” he told an annual African economic forum late on Wednesday.

”While we need to engage with that … we aren’t talking about a doomsday scenario.” Africa has more than two thirds of the people with the virus that causes Aids, and one in nine people in South Africa are believed to be infected — one of the highest rates in the world.

But President Thabo Mbeki has drawn international condemnation for questioning the link between HIV and Aids, which is accepted by most doctors.

A decision by the government in April to reverse some of its policies and start administering antiretroviral drugs was widely welcomed, and cited by many economists as a key reason for the rand currency’s recovery this year.

ECONOMIC OUTLOOK CAN STAY UPBEAT

Manuel noted that the government had been steadily increasing its spending on health to help combat Aids in the past few years.

He also quoted liberally from an study by the independent Bureau for Economic Research, which predicted that HIV-Aids would slow growth in gross domestic product (GDP) by 0,25 percentage points a year between 2002 and 2010, and 0,50 percentage points between 2002 and 2015.

South Africa’s economy could still grow by three percent or better annually for the next few years, inflation could remain at seven percent or lower and the budget deficit at less than three percent of GDP, Manuel added.

”It’s quite important that we don’t allow ourselves to be stampeded into something that doesn’t allow us to focus policy,” he said.

Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang told delegates earlier that the government’s focus on prevention was changing behaviours that spread infection, and there had been no ”U-turn” on Aids policy overall.

”There isn’t a U-turn — it is a consolidation of our strategic plan. We are midway in implementing our strategic plan,” she said.

But Gaby Magomola, chairman of the South African Business Coalition on HIV/Aids, said that business response to the pandemic was still inadequate.

A survey of 110 companies showed that only 27% — and only among the larger firms — were assessing the impact of HIV-Aids and incorporating it into their business plans.

”We found that far too low,” he told delegates. – Reuters

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