Profiles in leadership
Protecting the vulnerable One of the latest innovations cited by Abdullah is the new pre-exposure pill that helps prevent infection among vulnerable people such as sex workers, gay and transgender groups. “These groups, who we deem as vulnerable, can take this pill once a day and reduce their risk of getting infected with HIV. The pill has been tested and there are hundreds of thousands of people in the US and Europe who are on it,” he says. Deputy President Ramaphosa announced recently that government would be facilitating the provision of the pill to sex workers in South Africa. About 400 have already been enrolled. On World Aids Day, it was announced that men who have sex with other men would also be given the pill. and children, as well as providing treatment to the people who need it. Abdullah attributes the achievements to partnerships with
The pill is also registered and is available over the counter at leading pharmacies across the country.
the private sector and political will on the part of government
Counting the success
to do the right thing.
While the fight against HIV and AIDS is an ongoing one, Abdul-
Since 2009, the country’s Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission programme has been one of the flagship pro-
lah believes South Africa should be proud of the significant milestones the country has achieved so far.
grammes in government’s efforts to curb the spread of HIV,
“The biggest achievement for us thus far is the 3.5 million
particularly among the vulnerable members of society -
people on treatment. What this has done is increase life ex-
women and children.
pectancy for all South Africans by up to 10 years. If a child is
HIV prevalence among newborn babies fell from 8.5 percent in 2008 to below 2.4 percent in 2015. As a result, more than 100 000 babies were protected from HIV infection. Today, fewer South Africans are dying from AIDS thanks to access to treatment and rigorous prevention campaigns.
born with HIV, that child can expect to live 10 years longer. “As a country we have also brought down the number of people dying from AIDS. We achieved a 25 percent reduction in child mortality. Normally it takes a few years to achieve that, but South Africa has achieved it in a few years,” he says.
Funding the fight
About Dr Fareed Abdullah
But to fight the spread of HIV and provide treatment to those
Before he joined SANAC, Abdullah was Africa Direc-
who are infected requires money. South Africa today has the
tor at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and
largest anti-retroviral treatment programme globally and its
Malaria in Geneva from 2008 to 2011 and Director
efforts have been largely financed from domestic resources,
of Technical Support at the International HIV/AIDS
spending around R15 billion annually to run HIV and AIDS
Alliance in the UK.
programmes. This is no doubt putting pressure on the national fiscus and the health budget.
He trained at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s medical school in Durban and qualified as a specialist in
Abdullah says over the years, SANAC has been knocking
Public Health Medicine at the University of Cape Town.
on several doors to raise funding to assist government in its
He received an honorary doctorate from the University
fight against AIDS.
of Cape Town for his role in the successful scale-up of
“A lot of money comes to this country from several donors
a province-wide anti-retroviral treatment programme.
such as the Global Fund. SANAC raises up to R1.5 billion a year
Abdullah and his colleagues at SANAC have been in-
towards HIV prevention and treatment initiatives.”
strumental in promoting the upscale of treatment and
That money is used for research and other measures aimed
prevention of HIV in South Africa.
at preventing HIV.
Public Sector Manager • December 2016 / January 2017