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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 March 2007, 22:38 GMT
SA launches five-year Aids plan
By Peter Greste
BBC News, Johannesburg

South Africans queue to attend a World Aids Day (file photo)
The government action plan is seen as a message of hope
South Africa has launched an ambitious five-year plan to combat Aids, as new research suggested 1,500 citizens were infected with HIV every day.

The government aims to halve infections by 2011, extend its anti-retroviral drug programme, and raise awareness.

The plan was broadly welcomed by Aids activists as a significant turn-around from past policies, which they say failed to address the epidemic.

South Africa has one of the world's highest HIV infection rates.

When South Africa's Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka presented the country's new strategy for combating Aids, she was facing a potentially hostile audience.

Aids activists have longed accused the government of under-playing the threat of the epidemic, and diminishing the value of anti-retroviral drugs.

Urgent need

But the new five-year plan has been broadly welcomed as a significant and genuine change of heart at the highest levels.

Under the plan, the government aims to change the behaviour of young people most vulnerable to HIV infection, to dramatically extend its anti-retroviral drug programme, and to cut new infections by half by 2011.

The need is urgent.

The minister released her plan as a study by the Human Sciences Research Council suggested that 1,500 South Africans are infected by HIV every day.

The study suggested that young women are particularly vulnerable.

Up to 40% of women aged between 25 and 29 are HIV-positive, and for youths aged between 15 and 24, females accounted for 90% of all recent infections.


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