new fight

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma yesterday announced new measures to expand the country's response toHIV-Aids.

Zuma, who was addressing a World Aids Day commemoration in Pretoria, was hailed as a hero following his announcement of a change of policy in the fight against the HIV-Aids pandemic and the introduction of improved access to treatment.

"All patients with both TB and HIV will get treatment with antiretrovirals if their CD4 count is 350 or less," Zuma told the gathering.

He said all children under the age of one year would get treatment if they tested positive for the virus. This would be irrespective of their CD4 count.

"The decision will contribute significantly towards the reduction of infant mortality over time. All patients with both TB and HIV will get treatment with anti-retrovirals if their CD4 count is 350 or less," Zuma said to applause and cheers.

The president said "extraordinary measures" were needed to reverse the current trend of the disease in the country.

"This policy change will address early reported deaths arising from undetected TB infections among those who are infected with HIV.

"All pregnant HIV-positive women with a CD4 count of 350 or with symptoms regardless of CD4 count will have access to treatment. At present HIV-positive pregnant women are eligible for treatment if their CD4 count is less than 200. All other pregnant women not falling into this category, but are HIV-positive, will be put on treatment at fourteen weeks of pregnancy to protect the baby. In the past this was only started during the last term of pregnancy," he said.

The National Association of People Living with HIV and Aids welcomed Zuma's declaration that all health institutions would treat TB and HIV-Aids patients.

UNAids head Michel Sidibe said Zuma's HIV-Aids treatment policy declaration was a victory for people without a voice.