Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
The CEO of SANAC, Dr Thembisile Xulu,Let me take this opportunity to welcome you colleagues as well as the CEO of the SANAC Trust to this meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Committee of the South African National AIDS Council.Allow me to precede my remarks by formally introducing Dr Joe Phaahla, our Minister of Health, and welcome him to his first SANAC IMC as a Minister. We all wish you well in the execution of your leadership responsibilities.COVID-19 Context, and HIV and AIDS
We meet in the context of our ongoing response to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that has brought about unprecedented disruptions in our lives and the entire global economic system. We are pleased that, as a country, we have made significant progress in containing the spread of COVID-19 infections while ensuring that we focus on saving lives and gradually opening up the economy to sustain jobs and livelihoods.
The battle is not over. We are not out of the woods yet. We dare not let our guard down as the fourth wave of the pandemic potentially looms large on the horizon. We need to ensure that our systems and health infrastructure are ready for the resurgence of infections that may reverse the gains we have achieved.
Our vaccination programme continues to offer hope that with more people vaccinated, we will save more lives and get the economy back on track.
Alongside COVID-19 challenges, we should not lose momentum in our fight against HIV and AIDS and ensure that all our HIV and Aids programmes are embedded in our overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 will remain with us for the foreseeable future, and therefore it’s critical to integrate our delivery systems and platforms in such a way that the fight against HIV and AIDS continues to receive our attention within the broader context of our COVID-19 response. We need to continue directing our resources to the fight against HIV and AIDS.
Accelerating the Implementation of NSP targets
When we met a few months ago, we announced that the current National Strategic Plan, which was to come to an end in March 2022, has been extended to the end of March 2023, to allow for the acceleration of programme implementation towards the achievement of set targets.
We have agreed that we should ensure that the disruption of routine service delivery at all levels is avoided. Where challenges have been identified, catch-up plans must be developed and implemented to ensure that we do not derail from the focus of the National Strategic Plan targets.
An integrated response to HIV and AIDS, TB and COVID-19 should be designed and targeted at vulnerable communities and populations that are exposed to the devastating social, and economic impacts of these pandemics.
That is why, as government, we treat TB as a priority and we are putting effort to finding missing TB patients, to ensure diagnosis and treatment, including finding and re-initiating treatment for those that are lost to follow-up so that we strengthen adherence to TB treatment and improve our TB Cure rates.
More importantly, we need to ensure that we address socio-economic conditions and inequalities that breed negative impacts on vulnerable populations who continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS, especially adolescent girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 24
Last week, Statistics South Africa released a report that shows that more than 34 000 teenage girls gave birth in 2020 and 688 of them were younger than 10 years of age. These are shocking statistics. We view this as crimes that have been perpetrated against these young vulnerable children.
SANAC, and all its sectors, should be at the forefront of raising awareness of this scourge and pronounce itself strongly in ensuring that those committing these sexual crimes face the law.
Our programmes must focus on raising awareness, and forging collaborative efforts across society to ensure that we address poverty, gender-based violence, patriarchy, and all other behavioural and social determinants of HIV and AIDS.
We must ensure that our programmes are further extended to girls younger than 15 years of age. The long term economic, social, psychological and legal effects of these statistics are disturbing. We must act now.
We must focus on empowerment programmes for women and girls to equalise access to opportunities for self-development and economic participation. We should ensure that young girls have access to sexual and reproductive health services as well as comprehensive sexuality education and services free of stigma and discrimination from a very young age.
Together with all of us, the Men’s Sector has an important role to play in strengthening and delivering programmes that empower young boys and men to be agents of change against gender-based violence, femicide, rape and abuse of women. Men must be at the forefront in galvanising society to fight against atrocities and abuses perpetrated against women and adolescent girls by men.
Partnerships and resource mobilisation
As part of implementing the National Strategic Plan, we should continue to focus on partnerships and multi-sectoral collaborations that bring on board much needed expertise and resources to support SANAC.
In the face of diminishing fiscal resources, government will continue to prioritise resources for HIV and AIDS. Better collaboration across public sector players is critical to enhance resource allocative efficiencies and impact.
Therefore, SANAC will continue to enhance coordination with the Public Sector Forum to accelerate and improve the delivery of high-quality services, including HIV prevention, care, and treatment to those who need it the most.
Equally, we must continue to work closely with the private sector and our international partners to ensure that the work of SANAC is adequately supported and funded.
We are pleased that during this eventful year, we launched the SANAC Private Sector Forum, which is now fully constituted with members from various business formations such as the Black Business Council, Council for Medical Schemes, Business Unity South Africa and the Minerals Council of South Africa, to mention but a few.
The private sector has a crucial role to play in the fight against HIV and AIDS as well as COVID-19 especially in sectors like mining. We need to ensure that we harness private sector skills and resources to scale up our capabilities to respond effectively to HIV and AIDS and TB.
As the SANAC IMC, we know that without resources to respond to the HIV and TB epidemics as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, our plans are as good as the paper they are laid on. Therefore, we are looking forward to receiving an update on the governance and funding of SANAC for its effective operation.
Building up for World AIDS Day Commemoration
We meet once again as this IMC prior to the commemoration on the 1st December of the World AIDS Day. This important day calls on us to take stock of all that we have achieved as a country in order to reach our ultimate goal of ending AIDS by 2030.
This year, South Africa’s World AIDS Day commemorative event will be held at the Saselamani Stadium, in the Vhembe District of Limpopo Province. The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is “Working Together to End Inequalities, AIDS, TB and COVID-19. Get Tested. Get Vaccinated. Adhere to Treatment”. We know that we cannot end AIDS if we do not deal with the economic, social, cultural and legal inequalities that exist in our society.
This day signifies a clarion call for global unity in action in the fight against HIV and AIDS, TB and COVID-19. As a country, we need to continue to work together in solidarity, and act as a collective, including government, civil society, private sector and development partners, in order to ensure that no one in our communities is left behind, especially the marginalised groups.
For us, the commemoration of AIDS with the world is not only an event, but a critical platform to solidify joined-up action for effective implementation of key programmes in the fight against HIV and AIDS, TB and COVID-19.
We dare not fail.