Zille: AIDS 'a Crisis of Enormous Proportions'. 30/11/07
"Though a slight decline was experienced this year, analysts still predict South Africa's HIV infection rate to increase from its current 10% to 18% by 2025," she warned in her weekly online newsletter, SA Today, on Friday, a day ahead of World Aids Day.
According to the South African Institute of Race Relations, there were 5,5-million HIV-positive South Africans; each day, 1 000 people died of Aids-related illnesses.
Zille criticised the government's handling of the pandemic, saying much of the problem in combating the disease stemmed from the "mixed messages" it sent the public, particularly those messages emanating from the Presidency.
"President [Thabo Mbeki] sympathises -- at the least -- with Aids dissidents, and seems out of touch with the massive human catastrophe unfolding in the country.
"Furthermore ... Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who appears also to hold a dissident position, remains at the helm."
Zille commended Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka for her "extensive consultation with key stake-holders" and the launch of government's new National Strategic Plan on HIV/Aids, as well as the new South African National Aids Council.
"Statistics released this month ... showed that the National Strategic Plan might already be bearing fruit. The infection rate amongst young people has decreased steadily, if slowly, this year.
"However, it would be premature to view this positive sign as a victory in the battle against HIV: as a nation, we continue to be confronted by a crisis of enormous proportions," Zille said.
Over half a million adults and children infected with HIV were still not receiving ARVs.
Zille said the prospect of Jacob Zuma becoming African National Congress president loomed larger by the day, but "there is little reason to hope for a positive change in direction on the pandemic".
"At his rape trial last year, Mr Zuma stated that he believed a shower after sex would keep the risk of infection at bay. It is very unlikely that we can expect resolute leadership on the HIV/Aids battle from a man who sets such a poor example," she said. – Sapa