South Africa has made significant progress over the past decade to combat HIV and TB, however, the burden of these epidemics on the society and economy in our country remain high. There are 7 million South Africans living with HIV. Even though more than half of these are on antiretroviral treatment, there are still 150 000 deaths and more than 270 000 new HIV infections each year. The HIV epidemic generates about 450 000 new cases of TB each year joining these two epidemics at the hip.
As HIV affects the productive adult population it has had an enormous impact in the workplace and in the community. During the early stages of the epidemic, many companies in South Africa took bold steps in responding to HIV, including providing self-funded antiretroviral programmes, as soon as they were available, to employees and their spouses. By 2006, 90 000 patients in the private sector were on treatment, and by 2008, this had increased to 120 000 (around 21% of the total patients on ARVs). This figure now stands at 250 000. Since that time, the sector’s commitment to the HIV response has evolved and shifted, and the importance of HIV as a threat to business security has declined significantly.
The South African National AIDS Council believes that AIDS is very much unfinished business and that important opportunities exist for the total control of these two epidemics by 2030. With improved treatment and new tools for prevention this is now a possibility but will require a more substantial role from the private sector.
Engaging the private sector is key to reaching the ambitious targets that we have set at the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) for the total control of the HIV epidemic. Because we recognize that the goals of the National Strategic Plan cannot be achieved without a vibrant and robust private sector, SANAC is pursuing a strategy of engagement that prioritises partnerships, and leverages the unique skills, resources and capabilities of the business community.
In response to this changing context, we have made partnering with the private sector more central to how we do business. SANAC is committed to further engaging with the private sector as a long-term partner in the response to HIV and TB – a goal that is within our reach, now more than ever before, but one that will only be accomplished by working together.
SANAC’s private sector strategy was developed together with our key private sector partners in SABCOHA and in industry and aims to appeal to the business-mindedness of the private sector and the need to forge symbiotic partnerships that benefit our various goals and improve the bottom line during the hard times that we all currently face.
We look forward to working with the private sector in a way that we have not seen before.