The following speech was delivered by the Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize on behalf of the SANAC Chairperson, Deputy President David Mabuza.
Co-Chair of SANAC, Ms Steve Letsike as well as other Civil Society Leaders present here today
Your Excellencies, the Ambassadors present here
Ministers and Deputy Ministers present here today
The Premier of KwaZulu Natal, Honourable Sihle Zikalala
MECs present here today
The leadership of Global Fund
Heads of different UN agencies and other multilateral and bilateral agencies present here today
Directors General and Heads of Departments and officials present here today
Members of the Global Fund Country Coordinating Mechanism present here today
Members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen.
In an effort to fulfill the objectives of Goal 5 of the current National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs which requires us to ground the response to HIV, TB and STIs in human rights principles and approaches. We are therefore gathered here today to launch South Africa’s Human Rights Plan, a comprehensive to human rights and gender-related barriers to HIV and TB Services. A fulfillment of this critical NSP Goal.
Since the advent of these three infectious diseases, those infected and affected have suffered immeasurable stigma and discrimination, especially when trying to access essential civic and health services.
The findings of the Stigma Index Survey conducted in 2014 painted a dreadful picture of the prevalence of stigma experienced by those affected and infected by HIV and TB. The Survey covered 10 000 people living with HIV and/or TB. The survey found that 35.5% of people living with HIV and 36.3% with TB reported experiencing externalized stigma. External stigma refers to experience of unfair treatment by others.
Additionally, 43% of those living with HIV and 27% of those with TB also experienced internalized stigma – this refers to the shame and expectation of discrimination that prevents people from talking about their infection and experiences and stops them from seeking essential services.
This challenge, ladies and gentleman, extends to other key and vulnerable populations such as sex workers and the LGBTIQ+ populations, especially transgender individuals. They experience the worst forms of stigma and discrimination at the hands of civil servants such as healthcare workers, the police as well as the society at large.
This Memorial Park in particular pays tribute to the late Gugu Dlamini, a young woman from KwaMashu who was beaten, stabbed and stoned to death just by merely disclosing her HIV status. Her daughter, Mandisa Dlamini, who is here with us today, was only 12 when this tragic incident happened. Fortunately, her resilience saw her though and she now runs the Gugu Dlamini Foundation which seeks to not only honour her mother’s bravery but to fight stigma and discrimination.
The Gugu Dlamini story is indeed a harrowing example of the severity of unaddressed stigma and discrimination.
Two years later, the Constitutional Court presided over the Hoffman case relating to HIV discrimination in the workplace. Whereupon, the court said, and I quote:
“People Living with HIV constitute a minority and society has responded to their plight with intense prejudice. They have been subjected to systematic disadvantage and discrimination. They have been stigmatised and marginalised. Society’s response to them has forced many of them not to reveal their HIV status for fear of prejudice. This in turn has deprived them of the help they would otherwise have received. PLHIV are one of the most vulnerable groups in our society. Notwithstanding the availability of compelling medical evidence as to how this disease is transmitted, the prejudices and stereotypes against the PLHIV still persist. In view of the prevailing prejudice against HIV positive people, any discrimination against them can be interpreted as a fresh instance of stigmatisation and this is an assault on their dignity. The impact of discrimination on HIV positive people is devastating”
This by no means excludes other sectors of society that continuously experience discrimination directly or indirectly based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, disability and religion. It is with this view that the Human Rights Plan is launched and should be effectively implemented by all sectors of society to address some of these inequalities. The Government, Civil Society, Private Sector and Development Partners are to join forces in making sure that the Human Right strategy is executed in all spheres of our society.
This collaboration is already underway, the collation of the Human Rights we are launching today has been a joint effort between government, civil society, the private sector and development. The onus is on us to make it a living document.
There Plan outlines seven key programmes to ensure that our response to human rights violations concerning HIV, TB and gender-related stigma and discrimination is inclusive and embraces diversity.
These seven key programmes are:
- Reduce Stigma and Discrimination
- Sensitise and train health and Community-Based Workers
- Sensitise Law Makers and Law Enforcers
- Legal Literacy ”know your Rights” campaigns
- Strengthen Legal support services
- Monitoring , reviewing laws and policies
- Reduce Gender inequality and Gender Based Violence
The effective implementation of these seven key programmes will not only assist the country to achieve the NSP targets, but also the aims of the National Development Plan 2030 of reducing inequality.
Allow me at this juncture to acknowledge the civil society for being at the forefront of country’s response to the epidemic. We also thank our development partners for their continued investment of financial and human resources as well as our progressive judiciary.
As government, we reaffirm our commitment to the plight of people living with HIV & TB, as well as all key and vulnerable populations.