The African National Congress, South Africa's ruling party, last week announced it would make HIV/AIDS its top priority, a move that represents a significant policy shift for a party that has faced criticism for years of neglect on the issue. "Given the progression of the AIDS epidemic, our program of transformation should not only acknowledge this danger, but it must also put the campaign against it at the top of our agenda," the ANC said in a statement.
ANC spokesperson and strategist Joel Netshitenzhe said that his party now understands that AIDS has "ballooned into a huge problem" since the party's last conference in 1997 and they are "ready to deal with it." Almost 5 million South Africans, or one in nine residents, are estimated to be HIV-positive. Netshitenzhe said the ANC will soon release an "appropriate resolution" on how the party plans to fight HIV/AIDS, which experts say will likely involve multiple strategies, including providing antiretroviral drugs and helping to eliminate poverty to improve overall health.