World AIDS Day to mark massive mobilisation campaign

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma wants to use this year's World AIDS Day to mark the beginning of a massive mobilisation campaign by government against HIV and AIDS.

Addressing the National Council of Provinces in Parliament on Thursday, the President said the campaign should reach all South Africans and must spur them into action to safeguard their health and the health of the nation.

Zuma said that while South Africa has a comprehensive strategy to tackle HIV and AIDS that had been acknowledged internationally as well as the largest anti-retroviral programme in the world, we were not yet winning the battle.

"We must accept that we need to work harder, and with renewed focus, to implement the strategy that we have developed together. We need to do more, and we need to do better, together. We need to move with urgency and purpose to confront this enormous challenge," he said/

He added that in order to stop the progress of the disease extraordinary measures were needed.

"We will need to mobilise all South Africans to take responsibility for their health and well-being and that of their partners, their families and their communities."

He said the South African National AIDS Council, headed by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, was expected to develop a set of measures that strengthen the programmes already in place.

These include the reduction of the rate of new infections by 50 percent, and the extension of the antiretroviral programme to 80 percent of those who need it, both by 2011.

Every year, on 1 December, nations around the world mark World AIDS Day.

"Let us resolve now that this should be the day on which we outline those additional measures that need to be taken to enhance our efforts," Zuma said.

South Africa is regarded as among the countries with the highest number of HIV infections. Some studies suggest that 57 percent of the deaths of children under the age of five during 2007 were as a result of HIV.

The situation was aggravated by the high Tuberculosis (TB) prevalence with the co-infection rate between HIV and TB reaching a staggering 73 percent.

"Though a considerable undertaking, it is well within our means, and we should start now, today, to prepare ourselves for this renewed onslaught against this epidemic. We have very impressive awareness levels in our country, well over 95 percent," said Zuma.

He urged South African to convert their knowledge of the disease into a change of behaviour.

The President said he had instructed Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, to provide further detail to the nation on the impact of HIV and AIDS on our people ahead of World AIDS Day. This is expected next week.

"The important factor is that our people must be armed with information," said Zuma.

He conceded that prevention remained a critical part of the government's strategy to fight the pandemic. "We need a massive change in behavior and attitude especially amongst the youth. We must all work together to achieve this goal," he said.