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Ambassador criticises SA’s approach to Aids pandemic

Resource type: News

Sunday Tribune (South Africa) |

Original Source by Jani Meyer SOUTH Africa has an “outstanding” HIV/Aids strategy, but the government is not sending out a comprehensive message about the disease, thereby crippling its own efforts to curb its spread. This is according to outgoing US ambassador, Eric M Bost, who was in Durban on a whistle-stop visit recently. “The issue is getting the message across, but as long as politicians do not speak the same language it cannot happen,” Bost said. He said the Bush administration spent $397.8 million (R3 billion) last year through its President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) to fight HIV/Aids in South Africa alone. The country is one of 15 focus countries getting assistance from the US. Bost said Pepfar was working, but for every two HIV-positive people going on anti-retrovirals another five were infected. “The challenge is changing behaviour to prevent infection and not only treating people already infected,” said Bost. “All we can do is to continue using the media and get celebrities and athletes on board to spread the message. In African countries where there has been a levelling off or reduction in HIV infection there has been a concerted effort and a comprehensive message from the government. This has not happened here, despite an outstanding five-year plan,” said Bost. Apart from Aids, the US was very concerned about what was happening in Zimbabwe and Bost backed President George Bush’s proposed sanctions against Robert Mugabe and 13 other politicians. “This will not hurt the Zimbabwean people, it only targets the politicians,” he said. He said the recent elections in Zimbabwe and Kenya bordered on the ridiculous. “Where have you heard that the loser decides they want to have a government of national unity? Can you imagine that come November the losing presidential candidate in the US says, ‘I know I’ve lost, but I don’t like it – let’s have a government of national unity.” On the US election, Bost said the race was still wide open. “Four months in politics is an eternity, but either way history will be made. We will either have the oldest president to be elected or the first African American.” Whether Barack Obama or John McCain wins the election would not make a major difference to US policy regarding Africa, Bost said. Copyright 2008, Independent News and Media Ltd All Rights Reserved

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