PICS: #AIDS2016 opening ceremony
Durban - The 21st International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2016) officially opened in Durban on Monday, calling for eradication of the deadly pandemic by 2030.
Over 18 000 scientists, policymakers, advocates and people living with HIV are attending the conference.
AIDS 2016 will highlight the latest achievements in addressing the disease and challenges. Research results are expected to be released during the conference.
In an opening speech, South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said such conferences always come up with decisions which change the course of history.
He said: "It is these conferences that challenge all of us to act with unprecedented action and scale. It is through these conferences that we understand the epidemic, raise the level of consciousness and challenges our misconception."
Ramaphosa said the conference "will inspire us, give us the hope in dealing with the epidemic."
Ramaphosa, also co-chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council, said HIV/AIDS has destroyed lives, depleted resources and altered the lives of many people in the world.
He said the challenges brought by the disease have also galvanised the global community to unite and fight the pandemic.
The deputy president pledged total support and working with all stakeholders in fighting the epidemic.
"Let us change tragedy to triumph. I would like to reaffirm my government's unwavering commitment to working with everyone in the society and our developmental partners. No person should die from a condition that could be effectively treated. That is our commitment," he said.
No person regardless of social standing or level of income should be denied access to the treatment and services, Ramaphosa said.
Michel Sidibe, Executive Director of UNAIDS, said many lives have been lost and there is no time to be complacent. He called on the delegates to "re-engineer the approach" to addressing the disease.
Countries should invest more in research and innovation to fight the disease, he said.
"We should make a commitment to finish what we started, to end AIDS. If we miss the opportunity history will never forgive us," he said.
Chris Beyrer, co-chairperson of the International AIDS Society, said delegates are not gathering to celebrate about past achievements but to face the mammoth task ahead to eliminate HIV/AIDS.
He called for tolerance and end to stigmatisation to gays, lesbians and transgender people in the world.
"To truly succeed in all places and for all people, we must ensure that every action we take is grounded in all places and for all people, we must ensure that every action we take is grounded in science, respects human rights, and is fully funded for success. Let us use AIDS 2016 to bring our movements closer together. Everyone deserves services in safety and dignity. No exceptions," he noted.
Delegates are expected to come up with concrete interventions to ensure that the dream of an AIDS free society by 2030 becomes a reality.