South Africa's government on Wednesday approved a drug treatment plan to tackle its HIV caseload, said health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. South Africa has the world's largest number of HIV-positive people, with more than 5 million citizens infected with the virus. To date, anti-HIV drugs have not been offered by the government to treat those infected, and the vast majority of South Africans cannot afford the expensive antiretroviral drugs that can control HIV in the body. After a cabinet meeting, Tshabalala-Msimang told reporters there will be a network of antiretroviral distribution centers in each province within one year and that every municipality in the country will offer the drugs within five years.
The program aims to treat about 25% of the country's HIV-positive population by 2008. Also included in the program is funding for prevention campaigns and community partnerships to help slow the spread of HIV in the country.