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The AIDS policy of South Africa: prospects of success of the National Strategic Plan

Francis J.A. Van Loon
Universiteit Antwerpen
Francis J.A. Van Loon
Universiteit Antwerpen
Edwin Wouters
Universiteit Antwerpen
Open Panel

Abstract

The story of HIV/AIDS in South Africa is, to a large extent, one of lost opportunities. Whereas the country has one of the worst epidemics in the world, consecutive national AIDS strategies have been repeatedly marked by failure over almost 30 years. Understandably, South Africa’s most recent HIV/AIDS policy, the HIV/AIDS and SIT Strategic Plan for South Africa. 2007-2011 (NSP) has been greeted with general acclaim. However, what are its real prospects of success against the backdrop of the repeated failures of the past ? This paper has two main objectives. The first objective is to systematically identify the core reasons for past policy failures. The analysis of post-apartheid AIDS policy demonstrates that a complex interplay among the content, context, actors and process of AIDS policy created a gap between policy making and policy implementation, which rendered near-ideal AIDS policies ineffective. Secondly, we evaluate the chances of success of the current NSP by examining both the policy-making phase and the resulting policy document in light of the reasons for the past policy failures. Our analysis shows that the NSP contains dynamic and comprehensive policy content, sensitive to the socio-economic and cultural dimensions of HIV/AIDS. However, monetary and human resource shortages create a policy context that is infertile for the implementation of a comprehensive HIV/AIDS strategy, as envisaged in the NSP. Without the mobilisation of people living with HIV/AIDS and there communities, the NSP will be ineffective in bridging the gap between policy intentions and policy implementation.