Our Host and Premier of Mpumalanga,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Premiers, MECs, and Mayors present,
Deputy Chair of SANAC,
Leaders of the SANAC Sectors, and
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Let me take this opportunity to welcome members and representatives of the Extended SANAC Plenary to the first meeting of the year since our last meeting in June 2018 in Limpopo.
As many of you would recall, the Limpopo Extended Plenary received progress reports from a number of provinces. These reports detailed the impact of our work and targeted actions.
The reports indicated that we need to move the response into a higher and more focused gear.
Earlier this year, the Department of Health reported that just over 838,000 people tested positive for HIV for the period from January to December 2018. The highest incidence rate were recorded in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Eastern Cape.
The province of Mpumalanga is sitting with 76,007 of new HIV-positive cases.
As we have said before, one HIV infection is one too many. Working with our partners in civil society and in the business community, it is possible to reverse the HIV pandemic that has affected approximately 7.4-million people who are HIV-positive.
We need to continue putting in practical and decisive measures to reduce this level of incidence as we know how disproportionally it affects young women.
As government working with our partners, it is our responsibility that women and girl-children are empowered with relevant information that can save their lives.
There is a close relationship between the development of society and the empowerment of women and girl-children. The reverse is also true that, women disempowerment in any form or manner, like gender-based violence, disadvantages societal development.
This is why as government we welcome the speedy arrest, prosecution and sentencing of those who harm and violate the basic human rights of women and girl-children. There can be no excuse to justify gender-based violence.
There is no culture, tradition or religion that can be used to justify femicide or the wanton murder of women because they are women.
This is a major reason I support strongly the work of the Takuwani Riime movement. I urge you to also work with this movement and endorse their campaign to protect the human rights of women, children and the lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transsexual communities.
As government, we want to use the district-based implementation model to assist in with dealing with health threats at community level. The district development model is critical in the strengthening of our provincial and district AIDS Councils.
In this regard, we will be working closely with District Mayors and strengthen District AIDS Councils to give effect to improving our collective delivery outcomes.
The model of district participation will ensure that we make the desired impact where it matters.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am sure that you would agree that as Plenary, we have given ourselves the responsibility to meet the target of reaching 2-million people who need to be tested and treated.
Part of our outreach here today will be to step-up our efforts in support of the uptake of testing and treatment services for HIV, TB and Sexually Transmitted Infections.
Henceforth, we have taken the decision for the SANAC Plenary to visit high-burden HIV and TB provinces and districts.
This is in keeping with the aim to replicate the Eshowe model which have yielded significant successes within a short space of time.
The Eshowe model is mentioned as a benchmark because its impact is adding important impetus to showcase that together we can turn the tide on these pandemics.
In strengthening our response, one of the key challenges before us is not being able to win the prevention battle.
Therefore, we must continue to emphasise the message of more and more prevention, particularly targeting young people which is the age-group that is mostly affected by new infections.
This may require of us to change our tactics on how we approach this priority area and the Eshowe model provides us with clear evidence on how we can address some of the shortcomings regarding our prevention efforts.
We also call on our partners in civil society and in the private sector to work with government.
It is within our grasp to reverse the HIV pandemic and conquer gender-based violence. We can, and we will, win the battle by working together with all stakeholders in our schools, in our homes, at boardrooms, and in workplaces.
I thank you.