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Strengthening South Africa's Response to AIDS and Health

With over 6.4 million people living with HIV, South Africa has the greatest AIDS burden in the world. This and other historical factors have placed huge stresses on the public health system.

days saved using mobile phones to instantly transfer health data from clinic to national database
reduction in mother-to-child HIV transmission rate
in three years

The South African government has begun an ambitious health improvement programme which aims to provide universal, quality health care, free at the point of use. In response, in 2010, the UK government launched the five-year programme, Strengthening South Africa’s Revitalised Response to AIDS and Health (SARRAH) which was implemented by our health consultants. Total DFID/EU funding was £32.9 million

Key facts

  • We managed the SARRAH programme.

  • SARRAH provided technical support, strategic funding and other support to national initiatives to strengthen South Africa’s response to HIV and health.

  • Key work included support for the National Department of Health’s (NDOH) programme to contract private sector general practitioners to work in the public sector. This was jointly funded by the EU, DFID and the NDOH.


SARRAH provided technical advice, strategic funding and other support to national initiatives to strengthen South Africa’s response to HIV and health.

SARRAH was based on partnerships with leading national players in HIV and health. Key partners were the Ministry and National Department of Health, the South African National AIDS Council, and the HIV civil society organisation Treatment Action Campaign. Through the programme, we provided partners with assistance for projects that increase access to medicines, improve the health information system, and strengthen planning and financial management in the health sector. SARRAH also supported strategies to improve access to health services in poorer parts of the country, as well as improve their quality; establish independent regulatory bodies and develop a National Health Insurance scheme.

SARRAH worked with the South African National AIDS Council, the national body that coordinates all partners working in HIV and AIDS, by assisting the Secretariat in governance and organisational development and supporting its monitoring and evaluation unit. Further support was provided to agencies and organisations that monitor the national HIV response and advocate for expanded access to services.

Value and benefits

  • In South Africa the rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV fell from 3.5% in 2010 to 2.7% in 2011. SARRAH played a part in this success by managing the NDOH ‘Accelerated Plan’ which worked to improve national services to prevent HIV transmission from mothers to their children.
  • SARRAH helped the National Department of Health develop policy on National Health Insurance and pilot this major step towards universal health access for South Africans.
  • In August 2012, South Africa’s National Assembly passed the Quality Health Bill, which enabled the establishment of the country’s first Office of Health Standards Compliance. This achievement was the culmination of two years of intensive technical support from SARRAH.
  • SARRAH also piloted a health project using mobile phones to instantly transfer health data from clinics to South Africa’s national database, instead of the 129 days it takes to transfer data manually.
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