Click if you want your ad here

November 2009

"Change in Behaviour Needed To Tackle HIV/AIDS" says Zuma

South African president Jacob Zuma
South African president Jacob Zuma

These are some of the chilling statistics that demonstrate the devastating impact that HIV and AIDS is having on our nation. Not even the youngest are spared. Some studies suggest that 57% of the deaths of children under the age of five during 2007 were as a result of HIV.

This situation is aggravated by the high tuberculosis prevalence.

The co-infection rate between HIV and TB has now reached a staggering 73%. Statistics indicate that the numbers of citizens with TB number at 481 584. These statistics do not, however, fully reveal the human toll of the disease. It is necessary to go into the hospitals, clinics and hospices of our country to see the effects of HIV and AIDS on those who should be in the prime of their lives.

It is necessary to go into people’s homes to see how families struggle with the triple burden of poverty, disease and stigma. Wherever you go across the country, you hear people lament the apparent frequency with which they have to bury family members and friends. Chairperson, Honourable Members, Let me emphasise that although we have a comprehensive strategy to tackle HIV and AIDS that has been acknowledged internationally, and though we have the largest anti-retroviral programme in the world, we are not yet winning this battle. We must come to terms with this reality as South Africans.

We must accept that we need to work harder, and with renewed focus, to implement the strategy that we have developed together. We need to do more, and we need to do better, together. We need to move with urgency and purpose to confront this enormous challenge. If we are to stop the progress of this disease through our society, we will need to pursue extraordinary measures. We will need to mobilise all South Africans to take responsibility for their health and well-being and that of their partners, their families and their communities.

All South Africans must know that they are at risk and must take informed decisions to reduce their vulnerability to infection, or, if infected, to slow the advance of the disease. Most importantly, all South Africans need to know their HIV status, and be informed of the treatment options available to them. Though it poses a grave threat to the wellbeing of our nation, HIV and AIDS should be treated like any other disease. There should be no shame, no discrimination, no recriminations. We must break the stigma surrounding AIDS. In just over a month, we will join people across the globe in marking World Aids Day. Let us resolve now that this should be the day on which we start to turn the tide in the battle against AIDS.

Let us resolve now that this should be the day on which we outline those additional measures that need to be taken to enhance our efforts. Let World Aids Day, on the 1st of December 2009, mark the beginning of a massive mobilisation campaign that reaches all South Africans, and that spurs them into action to safeguard their health and the health of the nation.

Though a considerable undertaking, it is well within our means, and we should start now, today, to prepare ourselves for this renewed onslaught against this epidemic. We have very impressive awareness levels in our country, well over 95%. We should now seriously work to convert that knowledge into a change of behaviour. We have demonstrated in the past that, working together as a nation, we can overcome even the greatest of challenges. We can and will overcome this one. But we must begin by acknowledging the true nature of that with which we are confronted. We should not be disheartened by what we find. Rather, we should be encouraged to act with greater energy and motivation to overcome. I have instructed the Minister of Health, as we prepare for World Aids Day, to provide further detail to the nation on the impact of HIV and AIDS on our people. He will do so next week.

The important factor is that our people must be armed with information. Knowledge will help us to confront denialism and the stigma attached to the epidemic. Informed by this understanding, we expect that the South African National AIDS Council, under the leadership of the Deputy President of the Republic, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe, will develop a set of measures that strengthen the programmes already in place. We must not lose sight of the key targets that we set ourselves in our national strategic plan. These include the reduction of the rate of new infections by 50%, and the extension of the antiretroviral programme to 80% of those who need it, both by 2011.

Prevention remains a critical part of our strategy. We need a massive change in behaviour and attitude especially amongst the youth. We must all work together to achieve this goal. As we prepare for World Aids Day, and as we undertake the programmes that must necessarily follow, let us draw on our experience of mass mobilisation and social engagement. The renewed energy in the fight against AIDS and in mobilising towards World Aids Day must start now, by all sectors of our society. Working together, we cannot fail.

Chairperson,Honourable Members, the NCOP has led the way in taking Parliament to the people. We should build on this innovation to foster a close working relationship between government and citizens and between parliament and the people. I have come before you to ask for your cooperation and support in renewing this communal spirit and cooperation. It will help us to deal with the challenges we face, especially HIV and AIDS and its impact. Whatever challenges we face, we will overcome. Whatever setbacks we endure, we will prevail. Because by working together we can and will build a thriving nation.

bookmark and share