Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has commended efforts from all role players in the fight against HIV and AIDS, saying this has resulted in important gains being made towards reducing the spread and impact of the epidemic.
Briefing reporters on the 2016 International Aids Conference, the Deputy President said the world could bring the HIV and AIDS epidemic to an end through sustained collaboration between various sectors of society.
“We need to strengthen the social compacts that have been developed over the course of many years. I wish to commend all our partners in the SA National Aids Council for the contribution they continue to make individually and collectively,” said Deputy President Ramaphosa.
South Africa, which has the highest number of people living with HIV in the world, has rolled out the world’s largest treatment programme, with over 2,7 million people initiated on anti-retrovirals.
The Deputy President said while many achievements have been made, South Africa was not yet home free, as evidenced in the stubbornly high numbers of new infections.
Getting those on treatment not to default and overcome stigma was still a tricky hurdle to negotiate.
“In our quest for social justice and equity, we need to ensure that the development community, G8 and other global health platforms continue the focus on ensuring universal coverage.
“As we prepare for the 21st International Aids Conference, we will intensify our efforts to address these challenges,” said the Deputy President.
The 2016 International Aids Conference will be held in Durban and the country will be hosting it for the second time in the same town since 2000.
The Deputy President said the 2000 conference was pivotal in focusing the world’s attention on the impact of HIV in sub- Saharan Africa, fundamentally changing the course of the epidemic on the continent.
“A decade and a half later, thanks in large measure to the deliberations at that conference and the unparalleled response of the global health community, we have made much progress in tackling the epidemic in Africa and across the world,” he said.
The Deputy President quoted the late former President Nelson Mandela when he said in his closing address to the 2000 conference: “AIDS today in Africa is claiming more lives than the sum total of all wars, famines and floods and the ravages of such deadly diseases as malaria”.
The Deputy President said by the time the conference starts in Durban, “we will be able to report significant progress on all these fronts”.
“If we are to achieve the objectives articulated at AIDS 2014 in Melbourne, Australia, earlier this year, we need to ensure that the response to AIDS remains prominent in the post-2015 sustainable development framework,” he said.
The conference is organised by the International Aids Society, with its partners the United Nations, the South African government and international civil society organisations.