On Monday, South Africa reached an exciting turning point in its national HIV epidemic. Its national Department of Health announced that maternal deaths – which include mothers who die during pregnancy or within six weeks of giving birth – have dropped dramatically, thanks largely to expanded access to HIV treatment.
This is a success story that highlights South Africa’s recent progress against HIV. The country has increased access to HIV treatment by more than 75 percent in the past two years, ensuring that 1.7 million people have life-saving medicines. South Africa has also made it easier for HIV positive women to initiate antiretroviral treatment earlier in their pregnancies, resulting in a significant decline in mother-to-child HIV transmission. These policy changes have saved the lives of thousands of women and will significantly reduce the number of children born with HIV.
With one of the world’s highest HIV burdens, South Africa recognizes that expanded access to treatment and prevention of AIDS is critical to the country’s continued economic growth and to helping millions of its citizens lead a healthy and productive life. In the past two years, it has invested $1.6 billion of its own resources to scale up HIV treatment and prevention programs, by far the highest level of commitment of any low- or middle-income country in the world. That investment in the future is helping to guarantee that maternal deaths will be reduced and that thousands of children will grow up with the love and support of their mothers and families.