World Aids Day Commemoration, Address by Deputy President, Mr Jacob Zuma Bloemfontein, Free State 1 December 21003

The Premier of the Free State,
The Minister of Health,
Fellow South Africans,

We meet once again, to mark this annual event, at which we take stock, and also recommit ourselves to working even harder, to turn the tide against HIV and AIDS.

As we meet, we must applaud the contribution of many sectors of our society, in combating this disease.

Allow me also, from the onset, to join President Mbeki in paying tribute to the icon of our struggle, Former President Mandela, for his sterling work in the fight against AIDS.

His mobilization of the international community, as happened with the 46664 weekend concert in Cape Town, makes us all continue to admire him for his selflessness, and his resolve to constantly seek to improve the lives of others.

Since last year's World Aids Day, we have seen much progress in efforts to contain and curtail HIV and AIDS. We believe that the awareness levels have resulted in more and more people taking personal responsibility for their actions and behaving cautiously. We are also encouraged that there is now more openness about the disease, which creates a better environment for prevention work, as well as dealing with the impact of the epidemic in our communities.

The disease is still affecting us in many ways, but the unity of purpose in combating it and assisting those affected is encouraging and gives us all hope. We have always emphasized that combating HIV and AIDS is the responsibility of every South African, and every sector, be it women, men, youth, businesspeople, traditional healers, traditional leaders, academics, People Living with Aids and any other social group.

Having always emphasized the important role played by each sector, I must today single out men. The government's biggest HIV and AIDS communications campaign, KHOMANANI, has targeted men as one of the foundations of family and society, and as care-givers, husbands and partners, and as fathers and as sons.

The adherence of men to the prevention message is important, given that many women are dependent on them economically and socially. Due to our patriarchal history, some women are unable to negotiate precautionary measures in relationships, putting them at risk. We therefore urge men to act responsibly, and demonstrate that they care for the well-being of their partners and their families.

We applaud all men who have taken this campaign to heart, and who are part of the solution. Ladies and gentlemen, we are pleased that our Five Year Plan for HIV, AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases has stood the test of time. It has provided guidance to all levels of government and to our partners, about how to take this battle forward. The plan consists of four priority areas:

Preventing further HIV infections, through a combination of activities.
Treatment, care and support for those who are HIV-positive and those close to them.
Research and monitoring, including ongoing research into an AIDS vaccine.
Asserting the human and legal rights of all affected by HIV/AIDS.
As part of expanding access to treatment, and falling within the ambit of this five-year plan, more than a week ago, the Cabinet released an Operational Plan for Comprehensive Treatment and Care for HIV and Aids. Among many other things, the plan provides for Anti-Retroviral treatment in the public health sector.

We want to reiterate that despite all these measures from government and its partners, there is still no known cure for HIV/Aids; as a result, prevention remains the most critical aspect of our campaign. Therefore, changing lifestyles and behaviour remains our starting point in managing the epidemic. To put it unambiguously, ladies and gentlemen, our message is still: abstain, be faithful to your partner or use a condom.

Ladies and gentlemen, you would have heard about the support that our partners in this year's World AIDS day - Pick 'n Pay, EasyPay, Spoornet and the Red Cross - have lended to this specific campaign. We also want to acknowledge the enormous contribution of the business community to the HIV and AIDS programme. We are especially mindful of the endeavours being made by the South African Business Coalition on HIV and AIDS.

SABCOHA is growing in strength and activity. Its members, such as Unilever, Standard Bank and Anglo American are developing best practice materials and expertise and getting ready to share them with other businesses and corporates.

I would also like to recognize Eskom's contribution as well. Early this year, Eskom joined forces with The Foundation of Professional Development and the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society and Development Communication Associates to launch the biggest HIV and AIDS training intervention for medical practitioners.

The company committed a total of R6m over a period of three years to ensure that Southern African medical practitioners are trained in the effective treatment of HIV/AIDS patients. We need more initiatives like this and we are open to discussions with business on how to deepen such partnerships.

The contribution of the business community and many other sectors, confirms our optimism that the battle against HIV and AIDS can be won. Fellow South Africans, I am very happy to report that the country's co-ordinating mechanism, the South African National AIDS Council, has finalised its restructuring. This will no doubt further improve the potential of this body to address HIV and AIDS within the Partnership Against AIDS and its sectors.

It is now my pleasure to introduce to you the new members of SANAC. They are all committed to working harder than ever before, to make our united response to the epidemic effective and efficient.

Let us not lose hope. Together we can triumph.

I thank you.



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