Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi;
Ministers, Deputy Ministers and MECs;
UNAIDS representatives and Goodwill Ambassadors;
Special Guests from multilateral institutions and Global partners against HIV;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Civil Society Formations;
Fellow South Africans:
Thank you for joining us on this World AIDS Day.
The World AIDS Day is a day of commemoration in as much as it is a day of action.
It is a call to all our people to know their status, to care for their well-being, and to take responsibility for their own health and that of others.
The fight against HIV and AIDS can never be won without considerable effort, hard-work and dedication.
It cannot be won without human agency, change in behaviour and in managing the expression of our sexual identity.
It is a day that demands of all of us to pause, to think and reflect to ensure that no matter our station in life, no matter our age, no matter our class or gender, we all take responsibility by testing for HIV, TB, Cancer and other ailments. It calls on us to take preventive measures as a first stance in tackling this pandemic.
Equally, today we are entering a new era, an era of empowerment in knowing our status.
For today, we call on us to a campaign of knowing our status, of getting tested and of making the necessary change to sustain our health. Checka Impilo!
Today marks 30 years since the first World Aids Day was held in London in 1988.
Since then we have come a long way in testing, treating and managing the spread of HIV. Today we are able to manage and frustrate its ultimate end of deteriorating into acquired immune deficiency.
Our fight against HIV and AIDS throughout the years has had many ebbs, challenges and flows.
We have had times of wisdom and times of vice; times of science, sense and ignorance. We have had times of arrogance and stigma; times of care and times of reckless abandon. Yet we have emerged from these afflictions with the resilience of a nation renowned for the best HIV response in the world.
This has been a long and arduous journey.
Though we stand proud, tall and on a pedestal, with our achievements so profound – the road ahead remains long but not difficult.
It is still winding and challenging; with its pitfalls, potholes and rough edges in abundance.
Yet we are determined to walk this last mile of the way of a seemingly distant future, a future of infinite possibility, a future of an HIV-free world.
Even though that day is elusive, we keep walking, for it is within reach.
We keep walking because we are determined. As South Africans, we are a nation known for its resilience against any adversity.
We keep walking because we are committed to:
Zero new infections of HIV and TB;
Zero discrimination and stigma against those afflicted by HIV;
Zero AIDS-related deaths, and;
Zero new vertical transmissions.
This is a journey we will not alone, for we have always had caring friends across the globe.
We are all too aware that together, standing hand-in-hand, with all shoulders to the wheel, with our partners in the Global Fund on HIV, in the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and other civil-society organisations; we have a global force of change to be reckoned with.
With these long-lasting friends, with each of our brother’s keeper – our sister’s keeper, we will ultimately rid the world of HIV and AIDS.
We are all fellow travellers that are evermore committed to walking this long and imperilled road together.
From the ultimate milestone of an HIV-free world, we shall not hesitate, detour, give-up nor look back.
For we know what unity and struggle mean. It means in so far as HIV is concerned, we are neither giving in nor turning.
We will stand and fight the HIV pandemic together. We understand the lessons from our stigmatised past. We are all too conscious of the pain and sorrow we have suffered to arrive at the point of comprehensive HIV response.
It was by no small feat that we today have the largest treatment campaign in the world.
To date, our country has initiated 4.3 million South Africans on anti-retroviral treatment in the public sector, with an additional 235 000 in the private sector.
This is not a solo achievement by the state. It is rather a collective achievement from the courageous struggles of great men and women around the world.
It is the fruit of those who refused to be silent when people lost their lives and were denied life-saving treatment by cost alone.
It is a sign of their courage and conviction not to cower from confronting this pandemic with science, sensibility and comprehensive research.
They remain today, as they were yesterday, as it will be tomorrow, the lode stars that will enflame our commitment to fight HIV for generations to come.
In their memory, and commitment to their legacy, we will leave no stone unturned to create an HIV-free world.
In their innumerate struggles, they have created caring governments, active and well-heeled civil society.
They have united a people determined to put an end to the national despair, and support people bulking under the yolk of disease.
Today we count these victories as they are – for HIV is not just a virus that afflicts the health of individuals; it destroys families and communities; it handicaps nations and holds out socio-economic potential of a people to ransom.
Most importantly, it is a parasite that targets the poor and the vulnerable. It thrives in conditions where women cannot negotiate condom use from a position of power. It depends on superstition, ignorance and stigma to kill hope, to kill people and to kill aspirations.
It is merciless in its targeting of innocent children and young girls. It devalues the sanctity of human life and affronts the right to health and subjugates those without resources to fight its cowardly afflictions.
Understanding its license to kill, we are determined to fight back by ensuring that our healthcare system is an accessible public-good that is well supported.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As a government we are too well-aware that our responsibility is to provide leadership, vision and policy solutions to take us forward.
We are also aware that the needs of a society always determine its values, just as its leadership must show foresight and vision.
For when governments fail, the people fail.
Where governance collapses, services suffer.
Where healthcare is dysfunctional, people die. Families are decimated by preventable and manageable diseases. National development is curtailed.
This imposes on us a national imperative to ensure that healthcare is affordable, is efficient, is not overburdened and is of the best quality possible.
No more must people be deprived of treatment, respect and lifesaving care because of their race, social standing and other accidents of birth.
No more must what is best, be considered better by the stretch of one’s Rand or the depth of their pockets.
We are committed to rooting out inefficiency, laxity and dysfunction from our health system.
We are determined to be efficient, effective and to use the little resources we have as best we can.
In the last year alone, we have managed to test 11 million people and initiated 567 293 people on ART. We are targeting HIV together with its fraternal sibling – Tuberculosis.
We are determined to find those that are missing our national reach, those who have little knowledge and are vulnerable to multi-drug resistant TB.
We seek to screen and test 14 million people for HIV and TB, and 7 million for high blood pressure and diabetes. This will help us to add an additional 2 million HIV infected persons to the existing 4.3 million already receiving ARVs by December 2020.
Going forward, our focus should be on young people and men. It is young people, especially those between 15 and 24 years of age and men that are not testing for HIV, not being initiated on ARVs and not reaching viral suppression.
But all these efforts will come to naught, if we are not of a single mind and share a common purpose. A major factor in successfully implementing the National Strategic Plan, is the functionality of the AIDS Councils at all levels of our country, from national all the way to the ward level.
This should not be seen as the sole responsibility of those working in the sector, but a responsibility of all of us to build healthy communities that are free from the pandemics of AIDS and TB.
It is therefore incumbent on all of us to cultivate a culture of active-citizenship where we work, socialise and club together for the progress of our nation.
In any event, active-citizenship is a civic duty to keeping government focused, accountable and responsive.
We are looking to our young people to play a leading role in this struggle as capable and dynamic agents of change.
We look to them and to their energy to be revolutionary ambassadors across society; ambassadors that advance awareness about how to prevent TB and stop TB and AIDS related deaths.
We are looking towards civil society, business and traditional leadership to actively take part in the fight against HIV and TB.
If there was any time where the voice and weight of our traditional leaders is required to champion this course in human development – it is now.
By taking responsibility, through your activism, by bringing your voice to bear on these and other challenges, we can end the pitfalls of ignorance, discrimination and stigma associated with HIV.
It is all in your hands. It all begins with you, with me, and with everybody.
Let us all test for HIV, for TB and cancer to take charge of this gift called life.
On this World AIDS Day, let us commend and celebrate those who have taken the first-step.
They are our untold heroes and heroines. They have carried the burden on their shoulders to protect themselves, their loved ones and all others.
In their honour, one preventable death is one death too many.
For their courage and valour untold, we would all do well to emulate their example.
Just as we fight the HIV pandemic, we should, with equal measure fight to end the culture of gender-based violence.
It is a blight on our democracy that we fought so hard to attain. Gender-based violence does not represent the values of ubuntu and those of human rights that we stand for and have pronounced in our Constitution.
As it is written by poet Laurette, Professor Keorapetse Kgosietsile “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow – time is always now!”
The time is always now when far too many hear the knock at death’s door without access to life-saving treatment.
The time is always now when parents die and children become orphans to lead child-headed households.
The time is always now when women continue to live under the yolk of oppression, subjugation and the tyranny of patriarchy.
The time is always now when stigma and ignorance prevent people from adhering to treatment.
The time is always now to have courage, to test and to live a responsible and productive life, whether one is negative or living with HIV.
It is my sincere belief that the end of HIV is within reach, and a better tomorrow is upon us.
I hope today you will join us and you all will make your small contribution in taking us closer to an HIV-free world by testing and knowing your status.
I believe it will happen in my lifetime, if not, in my children’s lifetime. On countless occasions, we have proven to the world our capacity as a nation to overcome any adversity.
I thank you.