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Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu says South Africa has improved AIDS policies

posted 4 May 2011, 07:00 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 4 May 2011, 07:03 ]

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said on Tuesday (May 03) South Africa has changed its AIDS policies. He hailed the country's turnaround strategy on Aids, going from denial to the roll-out of the world's largest treatment programme.

He was speaking at a ceremony on Robben Island in South Africa where young AIDS activists were invited to share a platform with the Archbishop to talk about how far the fight against AIDS has come.

"We won't be around for too much longer so its a very great privilege and honour for us older ones to say we are passing the baton," he said, adding that passing the torch to young people to dispel the "darkness of ignorance and injustice" was of huge significance.

The event was convened by the United Nations and the South African government and was designed to inspire young activists to continue with their work.

Previously, the South African government was criticised for their AIDS policies with the country's former president Thabo Mbeki openly questioning the causes of Aids. His health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang had promoted garlic and beetroot instead of medication.

Currently, one million people are receiving anti-Aids drugs in South Africa, which has the world's most HIV infections, affecting 5.6 million of the 50-million population, according to UN estimates.

The country has also rolled out massive testing and prevention drives, including male circumcision and testing in schools.

The meeting at Robben Island was meant to be a symbolic passing of the torch from an older generation of activists to younger people who were brought to meet Tutu and others fighting to stop the disease.

"It's like, we are scoring a goal in the history of HIV because seeing people, young people sitting with you, honourables, its much more exciting," said a Kenyan Aids activist at the event.

South Africa has one of the world's heaviest HIV/AIDS caseloads, also has one of the world's largest treatment programmes.