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South Africa has finally endorsed a sound strategy to manage its HIV/AIDS epidemic, says this Nature editorial. But the plan fails to address key obstacles.

The country aims to improve diagnosis of the disease, halve infection rates and provide antiretroviral treatment to 80 per cent of those infected with HIV by 2011.

But implementing the strategic plan may prove difficult. Bureaucratic hurdles to administering therapy have meant that only ten per cent of children who could benefit from antiretroviral treatment receive it.

And poor public understanding of AIDS in rural areas keeps infection rates high, despite the drops in urban zones.

There is also a lack of trained doctors and nurses, with many leaving the public sector out of frustration over the government's flawed HIV/AIDS policies.

The government's reluctance, so far, to acknowledge the extent of the AIDS crisis could also hinder implementation of the new plan.

But, says the editorial, this may change if a new health minister is appointed, and if the deputy president — who helped draft the new AIDS plan — succeeds President Thabo Mbeki when his term expires in 2009.

Link to full article in Nature