South Africa has currently 2.4 million people on its HIV/Aids treatment programme, one of the largest in the world, the country’s vice-president Kgalema Motlanthe revealed on Sunday, as the virus continues to ravage sub-Saharan Africa despite new data showing drop in global infections.
He was speaking in Cape Town at the launch of the HIV counsellling and testing campaign in Parliament.
Motlanthe, who lost party elections to incumbent Jacob Zuma for the presidency of the ruling ANC, expressed his concern about the way the virus was tearing young people apart in the dark continent, saying that if new infections continue occurring among young people, the continent will not be able to capitalise on its demographic dividend.
“Nor will we be able to sustain some of the development gains we are making as a country and across the region,” he added.
Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 70% of the new infections which occurred in 2012, according to UNAids. Close to 5.1 million people in South Africa are thought to be living with the virus, down from 5.5 million some five years ago.
The former ANC vice-president, who is likely to disappear from the political radar come next year’s general elections, also said his country will continue maintaining its focus on prevention, including HIV counselling and testing through on-going campaigns.
“We must encourage everyone to test and know their HIV status including screening for other non-communicable diseases,” he said, adding that South Africa will introduce eye-sight assessment as part of the comprehensive package of HIV counselling and testing services.