South African Health Minister To Launch PMTCT Plan

South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi within the next two weeks is expected to launch a plan to address mother-to-child HIV transmission in an effort to reduce infant mortality in the country, The Times reports. The MTCT plan is part of a new health program adopted by President Jacob Zuma’s administration, according to The Times.

“This is one of the most urgent things I want to (deal with) as the new minister,” Motsoaledi said. According to Motsoaledi, a child dies every eight minutes in South Africa, and about 40% of child deaths are related to HIV/AIDS. The plan was developed by the Development Bank of Southern Africa at a July meeting of government and health sector stakeholders. Participants at the meeting also examined maternal deaths and the decrease in life expectancy among young adults because of HIV/AIDS. According to Motsoaledi, these and other issues have been identified as priorities for the Zuma administration if South Africa is to meet targets in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. They also have been consolidated into a 10-point plan to help the Department of Health focus on urgent issues through 2015.

“Health and education are the biggest challenges for (the government) and we ought to be doing something drastic,” Motsoaledi said, adding, “These are very serious issues in society.” The health department’s plan also calls for the revival of the National AIDS Council and says that the government should improve regulation of the private health sector. It also calls for the establishment of a national tuberculosis reference laboratory, a focus on infection rates among women ages 17 to 21 and the improvement of HIV prevention among commercial sex workers (Molele, The Times, 5/25).