President Jacob Zuma. File Photo: Ntswe Mokoena

Cape Town - The findings of a report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids (UNAIDS) were welcomed on Wednesday by President Jacob Zuma, who congratulated South Africa’s medical fraternity for progress made in the fight against the epidemic.

“We welcome the report by the UNAIDS which demonstrates that our aggressive HIV/Aids treatment campaign, which is the biggest in the world, has yielded remarkable results in preventing Aids-related deaths and ultimately increasing life expectancy as required by Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 6,” said Zuma.

The report, “How Aids Has Changed Everything - Meeting the MDG Targets”, was released on Tuesday. It stated that the world was “on track to end the Aids epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” and that the goal of 15 million people on life-saving HIV treatment by 2015 had been met nine months ahead of schedule.

“The Aids targets of MDG 6 - halting and reversing the spread of HIV - have been achieved and exceeded,” according to a UNAIDS press release.

The reported stated: “New HIV infections have fallen by 35 [percent] and Aids-related deaths by 41 [percent]. The global response to HIV has averted 30 million new HIV infections and nearly 8 million (7.8 million) Aids-related deaths since 2000, when the MDGs were set.”

The report also indicated that in 2014, 83 countries with 83 percent of the world’s population living with HIV had “halted or reversed their epidemics”. Included among these listed countries were Kenya, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.

Also mentioned in the report was how South Africa had increased life expectancywithin 10 years, a rise from 51 years in 2005 to 61 by the end of 2014, and “made significant strides in halting and reversing the epidemic.”

Other achievements noted in the report were that South Africa had the largest HIV treatment programme in the world with more than 3.1 million people on antiretroviral therapy - funded almost entirely domestically - and that the country had managed to, within five years, decrease Aids-related deaths by 58 percent.

“The report vindicates our position to put health as one of our apex of priorities and clearly, we are changing the face of health care in our country,” said Zuma.

He congratulated all South Africans for their role in combatting HIV/Aids and made special mention of the work being done by the medical fraternity.

“On behalf [of] government and all South Africans, we gratefully applaud work of the South African National Aids Council (SANAC), our health workers, home and community-based healthcare givers and all our health care and medical personnel,” he said.

However, Zuma cautioned South Africans not the let down their guard in the fight against HIV/Aids.

He said: “These results as announced in the report should not blind us. We have not yet reached our target where South Africa would be an HIV/Aids free country by 2030.”

“We should not be complacent. The fight against HIV and Aids continues, and also the fight against the stigma and the support for all infected and affected by the virus should continue,” Zuma said.

Also noted in the UNAIDS report were the persisting challenges around the world namely the high number of new infections in young women, high levels of intimate partner violence, and high rates of multiple sexual partnerships.

The president called on South Africans to take the necessary precautions against HIV/Aids by adopting healthy lifestyles and getting tested regularly.

He emphasised the importance of regular testing: “We also repeat our call for people to take the HIV test so that they can be able to receive treatment if needed.’’