The government’s new five year National Strategic Plan (NSP) on HIV, TB and STIs, launched on World Aids Day on Thursday, has been welcomed by Cosatu, the National Union of Mineworkers and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).

The NSP aims to ensure that by 2016 80% of people who need it are on ARV treatment, that deaths from TB are halved, and that new HIV infections are cut by 50%.

There are already over a million people on ARV treatment in South Africa and by the time the NSP, which succeeds the 2007-2011 plan, is complete that number should be three million.

President Jacob Zuma was expected to officially launch the NSP to the public in Port Elizabeth on Thursday under the theme ‘South Africa is taking responsibility on a path to eliminating the TB and HIV epidemics’.

The TAC welcomed the 2012 – 2016 NSP and congratulated the Minister of Health and the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) on making a political commitment to its implementation.

“It is the beginning of a new era in the response to HIV, TB and the social drivers of these epidemics,” said the TAC.

It noted that challenges remain. These including ensuring that the proposed interventions are of high quality and sustainable and that the NSP is properly budged for by local, provincial and national government.

The TAC also insisted that human rights need to be protected “and not just talked about”.

“The NSP makes some bold commitments that will need leadership from the government, including the long delayed issue of the decriminalisation of sex work.”

The October 3rd draft of the NSP acknowledges that people have been denied access to health care due to sexual orientation and cites one of its key strategic objectives as addressing issues of “stigma, unfair discrimination, human rights abuses, and gender inequality”.

It further asserts that targeting key high-risk population groups such as men who have sex with men (MSM) is vital.

The plan recommends that interventions for MSM and women who have sex with women (WSW) include: “peer education, access to respectful sexual and reproductive health services, condoms and lubricants, STI management, pre-exposure prophylaxis, HCT, TB screening, and social and behaviour change interventions to increase safer sex, and to decrease stigma.”

The TAC warned that decreased international funding for HIV and AIDS is a concern and could reverse the gains made over the last few years.

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