Affirming dream of an Aids-free nation
Address by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa during the launch of the National Strategic Plan For HIV, TB and STIs.
Today we have come together as a nation to intensify the fight against HIV, TB and sexually transmitted infections.
We are here to affirm that the dream of an Aids-free generation is within our reach.
We are here to demonstrate our resolve to build a world free from the devastation of preventable and curable diseases like TB.
We know this is possible because South Africa is blessed with an abundance of leaders in every avenue of life, in every corner of the country.
Our leaders are young and not so young.
They are well known and unknown.
They are men, women and transgender people.
These are South African leaders in heterosexual and same-sex relationships.
They are found in places of worship and in the streets, in remote rural villages and in all spheres of government.
They are our influential sportsmen and sportswomen, artists, media personalities and leaders of youth organisations.
They are mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers.
They are the people who will provide the strong and inspirational leadership throughout society that we need to reduce the burden of disease and advance good health.
Through focused leadership and active citizenry, we have changed the narrative of fear, condemnation and death to a narrative of hope, opportunity and life.
Today, we know that to be infected with HIV and TB is not a death sentence.
We know that our best chance to defeat the co-infections of HIV and TB lies in behavioural change to stop the spread of infection.
We know that prioritising investment in the well-being and capabilities of our people is not only morally and socially just…
It is a development imperative.
As we launch the National Strategic Plan on HIV, TB and STIs 2017-2022, we ought to bear in mind that this is a plan that belongs to all South Africans.
It is a plan that invites South African leaders from different walks of life to take action today to end the epidemics of TB, HIV and STIs.
Our new NSP emphasises the need for leadership participation and accountability at all levels to achieve the 90-90-90 targets.
We appeal to you, the champions of our people, to make your voice heard and your actions count.
It was former President Nelson Mandela, a global champion of people living with HIV and TB, who said: “Let us remind ourselves that our work is far from complete. Where there is poverty and sickness, including Aids, where human beings are being oppressed, there is more work to be done. Our work is for freedom for all…”
Today, we say that for as long as babies and mothers die from preventable HIV transmission, for as long as young women remain vulnerable because they have no work or education, for as long as men are stripped of their dignity because they cannot provide for their families, our work to advance human freedom is far from complete.
Ladies and gentlemen, the launch of the National Strategic Plan 2017-2022 is a pivotal moment in South Africa’s response to the HIV, TB and STI epidemics.
It is pivotal because we have made significant progress in several areas.
New HIV infections are on the decline – from 360 000 in 2012 to 270 000 in 2016.
Mother-to-child HIV transmission rates at six weeks decreased from 3.6% in 2011 to 1.5% in 2016.
The number of people on antiretroviral therapy increased from 2.4 million in 2012 to 3.7 million people in 2016.
South Africans are living longer thanks to awareness campaigns and improved access to HIV, TB and STI treatment.
We have recorded a steady decline in new TB infections and TB cure rates have increased.
Deaths from TB declined from 41 000 in 2013 to 33 000 in 2015.
This is a pivotal moment in our fight against the epidemics because, despite our successes, we need to significantly expand and accelerate our efforts if we are to make meaningful progress.
We still have a large number of new HIV infections.
About 2 000 adolescent girls and young women are infected weekly.
Tuberculosis remains the leading cause of death in the country.
A large number of South Africans have TB, but are not in the health system.
Ladies and gentlemen, to improve outcomes, the NSP calls for a new approach to HIV, TB and STIs.
It directs our efforts and resources to geographic areas and populations most severely affected by the epidemics.
It adopts a combination of interventions that deliver high impact.
It has a strong focus on improving the prevention of HIV infection among adolescent girls and young women because of their extremely high rate of infection.
This effort will undoubtedly be helped by the new treatment regimen for multi-drug resistant TB that was launched earlier today.
This new regimen will reduce treatment time from the current 18-24 months to only nine months.
It is also expected to significantly improve the cure rate.
The NSP is premised around eight interrelated strategic goals:
Goal One is to accelerate prevention to reduce new HIV, TB and STI infections.
Goal Two is to reduce morbidity and mortality by providing HIV, TB and STIs treatment, care and adherence support for all.
Goal Three is to reach all key and vulnerable populations with customised and targeted interventions.
Goal Four is to address the social and structural drivers of HIV, TB and STI infections.
Goal Five is to ground the response to HIV, TB and STIs in human rights principles and approaches.
Goal Six is to promote leadership and shared accountability for a sustainable response to HIV, TB and STIs.
Goal Seven is to mobilise resources to support the achievement of NSP goals and ensure a sustainable response.
Goal Eight is to strengthen strategic information to drive progress towards achievement of NSP goals.
The NSP is closely aligned with the National Development Plan, locating the struggle against HIV, TB and STIs within the broader struggle for economic and social development.
These are mutually reinforcing efforts: progress in reducing the burden of disease contributes to development, while faster development improves our ability to address the social and structural drivers of HIV, TB and STIs.
Working together, we seek to reduce TB incidence by at least 30%, from 450 000 to 315 000.
We want 90% of all people living with HIV to know their HIV status, 90% diagnosed with HIV infection to get antiretroviral treatment and 90% of them to have the virus suppressed.
Working with you, we must drastically reduce new infections of HIV by 60% from 270 000 in 2016 to less than 100 000 by 2022.
We want to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission.
We are determined to cut new infections among adolescent girls and young women from 2 000 each week to less than 800.
The She Conquers campaign and other similar programmes are already being implemented as part of the effort to reduce HIV transmission and its impact.
She Conquers is focused on decreasing HIV infections, reducing teen pregnancy, keeping young people in school, ending sexual and gender based violence and creating economic opportunities for young people.
We applaud the involvement of the business community in this campaign.
We invite business leaders to work with government and civil society to empower their employees and their families and communities that live in the vicinity of their business operations.
Ladies and gentlemen:
All sectors of society must contribute to the effort to eliminate Aids and TB as public health threats.
Our individual and collective actions must count.
If you are sexually active, protect yourself and your sexual partners by consistently using a condom.
Check your HIV status regularly and seek care and support to remain healthy.
Cover your mouth when you cough and get screened for TB if you have a persistent cough.
If you have TB, make sure that you finish your treatment so that you can be cured.
Play your part in ending stigma and discrimination against people with HIV or TB and protect their human rights.
Let us act against patriarchy, gender-based violence and alcohol abuse.
Our young people must stay away from drugs and avoid the abuse of alcohol.
We have to use our limited resources wisely and more prudently.
And as we take personal and collective responsibility for our health and the health of our loved ones, we should all be accountable and measure our progress in eliminating these diseases.
We should, at minimum, reach the 90-90-90 targets for HIV and TB by 2020.
This must be the commitment of government, business, labour and every formation within civil society.
The National Strategic Plan that we are launching today recognises that these epidemics are not simply about viruses, bacteria and medicine, but about the society in which we live, the relationships we form, the work we do, the places in which we live, the way we treat each other, the way we treat ourselves, and the aspirations we have for our children and their children.
This National Strategic Plan is about life, how we protect it, how we prolong it, how we value it and how we improve it.
We have it within our means to eliminate Aids and TB as public health threats.
Now is the time to act.