Address by Deputy President Zuma on the Occasion of World AIDS Day, Athlone Stadium, Cape Town, 1 December 2004

The Minister of Health,
Premier of the Western Cape and MECs,
The Mayor of Cape Town Unicity,
Members of the South African National Aids Council,
Compatriots infected and affected by HIV and AIDS,
Fellow South Africans,

We have once again reached this very important day in our calendar, World Aids Day.

This is the day on which we celebrate progress made in the battle against the epidemic, while also recommitting ourselves to double our efforts in the campaign.

The issues I would like us to ponder today are the following:

  • The emancipation of women and the role it can play in arresting the spread of AIDS.
  • Dealing with the challenge of poverty.
  • The responsibility of each citizen in the fight against AIDS.

A key feature of our democratic government has been the quest for the emancipation of women. We are doing this because of the realisation that our nation building efforts would be undermined if we do not achieve equality and empowerment in gender relations, and also if we do not improve the quality of life of women of all social classes, and regardless of geographical location.

We have advanced a lot in the last 10 years in terms of the emancipation of women, but we have certainly not reached a stage of equality between men and women.

Women are still made vulnerable by men's greater economic and social power, which impacts on personal relationships. Due to this socio-economic dependence on men, many women are left with little or no control over their exposure to the virus.

The commemoration of World Aids Day takes place during the important period of the 16 Days of Activism against violence directed towards women and children.

This campaign has a special significance in the fight against AIDS, as fear of physical violence or emotional and psychological abuse from their partners may be one of the factors which make it difficult for women to insist on the use of condoms to protect themselves from infection.

There are also cases of women and girl children who contracted the virus due to rape. Therefore the question of the emancipation of women continues to be paramount.

Another important intervention is that of the fight against poverty. We have over the last 10 years achieved a lot in terms of expanding access to a better life for all our people. Many now have access to water, electricity, roads, sanitation and many other services, but many more are still waiting for these services. We also still face the challenge of creating jobs.

That is the reason why we are intensifying the fight against poverty, to improve the living conditions of our people in an integrated and comprehensive manner. Many people living with HIV and AIDS cannot act on the messages of ensuring a good nutrition or taking medication with meals, as they do not know where their next meal will come from.

We are continuing with programmes of sustainable socio-economic development. The interventions include boosting of the Second Economy where the majority of our people earn their living.

As a short-term intervention, government continues its programmes of providing social grants to orphans, assisting with agricultural programmes in various communities to promote food security, and various other support mechanisms to home-based care programmes and other initiatives designed to alleviate suffering.

Other sectors continue with various programmes as well, within the auspices of the South African National Aids Council. It is this partnership that enables us to make the impact we are making as a nation.

Ladies and gentlemen, government and other sectors within the partnership against AIDS will continue to play their role. However, this does not take away the responsibility from each individual.

Therefore today, we urge individual citizens to rededicate themselves to the fight against AIDS, and to take HIV and AIDS messages seriously. The messages should begin to enlist action on a wider scale, and a change in lifestyles and behaviour.

This should start with an acknowledgement and acceptance that anyone can contract HIV. It does not discriminate in terms of gender, geographical location, the length of a relationship with a particular partner, the social status of the partner and so forth.

The action of each person counts in this war against AIDS. If everybody takes the messages of abstention, faithfulness or condom use seriously and act on it, we can achieve our goal of drastically reducing the rate of infections.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me also emphasise the need for us to provide support to the infected and affected. Nobody should carry this heavy burden alone. People living with AIDS should not be made to feel like lepers, and be ostracised by family, friends and colleagues. Let us rededicate ourselves to accept the reality of AIDS, and begin to look at the disease positively, and be part of the solution.

I must also, ladies and gentlemen, salute all the care givers in our communities - the relatives, friends and volunteers in hospices and other centres.

We also acknowledge our health personnel who face the brunt of the disease daily. There are many nurses, doctors, and other support staff in hospitals, clinics and other public health centres who are exemplary in the manner in which they assist and provide support with love and understanding.

Ladies and gentlemen, during this season of goodwill, let us dedicate ourselves to spreading love, care and support, and to doubling our efforts in the fight against the disease.

I thank you all for honouring this World AIDS Day 2004, in South Africa.

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