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S Africa unveils new Aids fight

South Africa's Health Minister Barbara Hogan on the fight against HIV/Aids

South Africa's new heath minister has promised to increase the availability of treatment for HIV and Aids, speaking at a rally to mark World Aids Day.

Barbara Hogan cited the case of an eight-year-old boy battling Aids-related TB and meningitis who died while on a waiting list for drugs.

She said the government should have done more to save Thando's life.

The BBC's Jonah Fisher in Johannesburg says it is a long way from Thabo Mbeki's time as president.

A recent medical study blamed him for the death of 330,000 people, after he questioned whether expensive anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs actually worked.

At the same time, his Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang was dubbed "Dr Beetroot" for proposing lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and beetroot over ARVs.

Break from the past

"We could have given his mother, and Thando, a chance to live healthier lives with the love of his grandmother. We could have given nurses and doctors a chance to save his life," Ms Hogan said before a gathering of political leaders and hundreds of Aids activists in Durban.

"Therefore as government now we pledge to urgently scale up the mother-to-child HIV prevention programmes."

South Africa's former health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang
The former minister was dubbed "Dr Beetroot" for her policies

Having acknowledged the failures of the past, Ms Hogan promised to reach out to the tens of thousands of people who are still not receiving much-needed drugs.

About 1,000 South Africans die each day of the disease and complications like tuberculosis.

Even more become infected because prevention messages have not worked.

A recent Harvard medical study says government delays in introducing Aids drugs between 2000 and 2005 cost more than 330,000 lives in South Africa.

The study says an additional 35,000 babies were born with HIV during the same period because authorities were reluctant to roll out mother-to-child prevention programs.

AFRICA HAVE YOUR SAY
What used to be a loud cry is now very still and silent. We carry on our daily duties, thinking less of this pandemic
Erik Essien-Obot, Dillingen

The government's tone has changed dramatically since Mr Mbeki was ousted by the ruling African National Congress in September.

Ms Hogan's appointment has been praised by activists as she has sought to turn around the country's policies.

Some 33 million people around the world are now living with HIV, and an estimated 2.7 million more become infected each year.

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