Address by Deputy President P Mlambo-Ngcuka at the official opening of the South African exhibition stall at the XVII International Aids Conference, Mexico City
3 August 2008
Ladies and gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to address you at this XVII International AIDS Conference whose theme of: "Universal Access now" is more important than it was when the term was coined by the United Nations (UN) in 2005. More importantly, as we approach the 2010 targets of the 2006 Political Declaration on Universal Access and as we are at the halfway mark towards 2014 MDG targets.
We can now say that we have most of the necessary diagnostic and treatment tools necessary to manage this disease. After more than two decades of the International community working on HIV and AIDS, we now have the experience and the expertise we need for effective and efficient results.
I am told that not less than 20 000 people have already registered to be part of this important meeting whilst many more are still expected to register. Outside of sporting and other cultural activities, I haven't seen a disease that has drawn attention such as HIV and AIDS have in all Nations of the world. Humanity is responding to this challenge in an unprecedented way and we need to make efficient use of this social capital.
Its encouraging to see the comprehensiveness of the conference programme as it provides a platform for sharing of information and experience across a broad range of critical role players. I notice that there is high level representation of multilateral organisations, strong presence of multinational co-operates, scientists of various backgrounds, politicians, service providers and service users all in one place, this is highly commendable.
The challenge is with seizing the moment and making efficient use of the space it provides towards indeed universal access to HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment, care, and support interventions. I am looking forward to being part of the conference activities.
As open one of the most stunning exhibitions at this Conference let me also this opportunity to share some of the South African experiences in our evolutionary response to HIV and AIDS. The democracy we attained in 1994 and the work that we have done since has earned us a formidable place in the global community. Some of the milestones achieved by our country include the following:
* 1996: Passing and adoption of our Constitution, that is most progressive in the world with the bill of rights enshrined in it. The bill of rights is the cornerstone to observance of basic rights for all citizens including People living with and or affected by HIV and AIDS from stigma and discrimination.
* 1998: Our President Mr Thabo Mbeki launched the Partnership against AIDS during his capacity as Deputy President.
The Partnership against AIDS is a call to action inviting South Africans from all walks of life to participate in turning the tide against HIV and AIDS, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and tuberculosis (TB). We now have one of the most robust, inclusive, and representative AIDS Council in the Southern African region- South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) boasting high level representation of no less than 17 sectors of civil society and 18 key government departments. The road to this point has not been without pain but we are happy that we are over that period now.
* 2000: We launched the first multi-sectoral National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV and AIDS and STIs, which was a concerted effort between Government, civil society and sectors. This NSP outlined four priority areas namely: prevention, treatment, care and support, research, monitoring and surveillance as we as Access to Human Rights and Justice. Indeed the NSP 2000 to 2005 played a crucial role as a building block to our response to HIV and AIDS. The NSP 2007 to 2011 has built on lessons learnt, considered developments but continues on the same trajectory for a sustained response. This NSP defines the nature, character, and the dynamics of the South African HIV and AIDS problem and maps out all the relevant interventions in a truly inspirational but realistic way. It the inspiration of all role players in the country, PLHIV, lobby groups, scientists, government, business, development partners, clinicians, women, men, children, religious groups everyone has been allocated a responsibility in this NSP. SANAC is closely monitoring and supporting its implementation.
Just a day before we travelled to Mexico SANAC had a robust discussion on matters of monitoring and evaluation, everyone keen to see that the National targets are being met.
* 2001: Saw the birth of Government Khomanani Campaign which has been going on for close to seven years has been expanded deeply and widely intensifying community-based activities mainly from door-to-door campaigns. This beautiful stall that you see here is the creation of Khomanani. The Campaign is a broad based campaign communicating HIV and AIDS and STIs, as well as TB messages to the South African population.
The campaign has recently been expanded to include elements of the healthy lifestyle campaign and to strengthen the TB or HIV co-infection and Nutrition aspects of the managements of HIV and AIDS. It is a well-known government brand in South Africa and beyond.
* 2003: Cabinet approved the implementation of the Comprehensive, Care, Management and Treatment Programme that turned the face of our response to HIV. Today South Africans living with HIV can access comprehensive health services and anti-retroviral (ART) in more 420 accredited service points in all our 53 health districts. More than 510 000 people have enrolled in the programme as at June 2008. This number constitutes the highest number of people initiated on ART in any country.
* NSP also responds to the need of children left vulnerable by HIV and AIDS through the implementation of the National Action Plan of Orphans and other Children made vulnerable by the epidemic. More than eight million vulnerable children receive social assistance through a child support grant.
The effect of this intervention has been that many of these children have been removed from their dire situations of poverty and neglect. One of the achievements is the progress made with regard to the provision of services to vulnerable children including those affected by HIV and AIDS. There is now new legislation which will soon be in operation before the end of this year.
* 2006: In response to the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Africa (WHO-AFRO) 2005 call for accelerated HIV prevention, we launched and implemented the Accelerated HIV Prevention Strategy focusing on young people as a vulnerable group. Central to this prevention strategy is public awareness and distribution of both male and female condoms. Condoms have been accessed in all communities in traditional sites and non-traditional sites.
* 2007: After a review of the NSP, which was carried out in 2006, we developed and launched the NSP 2007-2011 after it was approved by Cabinet. This NSP has re-energised our response in unprecedented way. It speaks to all the national institutional drivers of the South African epidemic and outlines targeted interventions whilst focusing on generally on the national populace. Indicators for mentoring have been identified, elementary costing has been done and implementation is now vigorously underway.
All political parties and leaders refer to this NSP at big meetings and in rallies, advocating for commitment to its implementation by all in the country.
The HIV and AIDS response in South Africa has been part of our critical path to democracy post 1994 and these strategic plans and policies together with the relevant legal frameworks are the product of this new democracy.
Even as I am proud to mention these achievements in our response, we are fully sensitive to the fact that there is a lot of work to do ahead. Part of this challenge is because of the intractable nature of the fundamental drivers of this epidemic in South Africa - the fact that too many people are still trapped in poverty with poor access to education, services infrastructure, water, sanitation, etc. These challenges are very difficult to deal with, and many people remain vulnerable to diseases such as HIV and AIDS in South Africa. The high number of people estimated to be living with HIV in our country implies that many people are and will be in need of treatment for a long time. As much as we boast the largest ART programme in the world, we are anxious about such the future affordability of this programme.
We need cheaper drugs, cheaper diagnostic tools, but most importantly we need to make HIV prevention effective. It is this realisation that has led us to seek to strive towards a 50% reduction of new HIV infections in the NSP five year period. This may not be doable but we are acutely aware that if we don't mobilise South Africans to work towards this, the consequences may be more devastating. We believe that the partnerships that we have with communities, CBOs, development partners will take us close to this target if not there! Everyone is on board, with a specific attention in this term to the elderly people and people with disabilities.
Delegates, ladies and gentlemen, as nations and governments of the world we have worked tirelessly to lesson the impact made by HIV and AIDS on our communities. As we struggle with climate change, food prices, fuel shortages, and underdevelopment, HIV and AIDS is continues to loom large on the radar screen. New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), the African position on Universal Access to universal access to HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support as well as the SADC HIV and AIDS strategy provide a framework for a regional approach to this disease.
Let us seek to find convincingly effective HIV prevention interventions relevant to each specific epidemic in countries as well as HIV vaccines that work. Whilst doing that South Africa is committed to do the best that is currently possible to reduce new HIV infections and to mitigate the impact of this disease on individuals, families, society and the peoples of the world.
Our beautiful stall is here. There are people at the stall to respond to questions you may have, there are materials you may be interested in, just nicely and you will be assisted. We are proudly presenting ourselves to the International HIV and AIDS Society and please feel free to provide comments and recommendations.
I wish you all of the best in your deliberations here at the conference, and I hope that the conference recommendations and lessons learned will enhance our global efforts to deal with HIV and AIDS more efficiently so that future generations can judge us on the adequacy of our response. All our efforts to eradicate HIV and AIDS as a global family should bear a lasting legacy for generations to come.
I thank you.
Issued by: The Presidency
3 August 2008
Source: The Presidency (http://www.thepresidency.gov.za)