The South African National Aids Council (SANAC) has held its extended plenary session in Polokwane, Limpopo, to prepare for the international Aids conference next month in Amsterdam.

Deputy President David Mabuza, who is the SANAC chairperson, led the session. Delegates included the Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, premiers and MECs.

The extended plenary session focused on the country’s response to HIV, TB and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Delegates also received an update on the implementation of the national strategic plan regarding the social and structural drivers of the diseases.

Stakeholders need to agree on a common message to take to the international Aids conference taking place between the 23rd and 27th of July. Deputy President David Mabuza has commended the efforts being made by SANAC and other stakeholders in the fight against HIV and TB.

Mabuza says partnerships between various role players have had a significant impact in fighting the diseases.

“I wish to convey my gratitude to all of you for the critical work you have been doing to ensure that our beloved country is counted among those that are leading in the fight against HIV, TB and STI’s. Through our patriotism and commitment, our fight against HIV, TB and STIs has resulted in slowing down these epidemics, although we all agree that it’s not at a pace that we aspire.”

SANAC deputy chairperson, Steve Letsike, however, says there is a huge challenge to reduce new HIV infections to 88-thousand in the next two years.

Letsike says South Africa’s annual new HIV infection rate currently stands at 270 000, which the Global HIV Prevention Coalition says should be reduced.

“We are now under pressure Deputy President because by 2020 we must have reduced infections to 88 thousand as a country. We only have one year. Our current new infections is at 270 000 annually; and that means that we must move fast in our response. Deputy President, in 2010 we launched a testing campaign which was successful, but we are not testing in the same rate as we were testing 8 years ago.”

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says the world needs to change its attitude towards dealing with TB. Motsoaledi says despite the progress made – countries, including South Africa, need to intensify prevention and treatment programmes for TB, which he says is currently the number one killer among infectious diseases in the world.

“We have got a killer amongst our midst, which is annihilating us, but it does not care anybody. That killer is TB. As we are sitting here today, I wish to announce to you that TB is now number one killer of all infectious diseases in the world. In the last 200 years TB has killed more people than Aids, cholera, malaria. But many of us here have heard action against them, but not about TB.”

Meanwhile, SANAC says funding for HIV and TB programmes remains a challenge, and it hopes government will increase its support in this regard.