Join Millions of people across the globe to mark World Aids Day by the Honourable MJ Segale-Diswai, MP (ANC)

24 November 2011

Honourable Chairperson
Honourable Minister
Honourable Deputy Minister
Honourable Members of Parliament
Treasured Guests in the Gallery
Ladies and Gentlemen

Health is a fundamental human right indispensable for the exercise of other human rights. Every human being is entitled to the enjoyment of the highest standard of health conducive to living a life in dignity. Chairperson the right to healthcare is an important and critical right, without which other fundamental rights cannot be exercised. Now is not the time to lament. It is the time to act decisively, and to act together. Our message is simple. We have to stop the spread of HIV. We must reduce the rate of new infections. Prevention is our most powerful weapon against the epidemic.

This year marks exactly 23 years and ten months since that day when the ministers of health met in London to adopt the 1st of December as the day on which the world will commemorate the lives of those who are affected and infected by HIV and Aids. This historic step was motivated by the growing realization that, the spread of (HIV) was not confined to geographic locations, season of the year or economic status of people or level of their education.

In 1988 the theme of the World Aids Day was Communication. This theme reminded the world of the need to ensure that the messages of the messengers on HIV and AIDS were delivered without any ubiquities. Those who where suffering were yearning to hear someone speak a message of hope. They wanted to hear the leadership speak. For me this theme is more relevant even to this day. Unless we strengthen our communication, the way we talk, the way we act, the way we live our verbal and non verbal communication are key to sending the message of hope to those who are at the receiving end of the scourge. I am certain the Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motswaledi learned from that theme, because when he took over the portfolio, he heightened the communication on this matter. I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude for the Minister and his deputy and urge them to work even harder because someone who has been hopeless get more hope when they speak. Some orphan gets better sense of a better tomorrow when the leadership speaks.

In 1988 and 1990, the themes were "Youth" "Women & Aids". These themes resonated well with what was the challenge at the time. This is so relevant because unless we addressed the most vulnerable groups which are the youth and women, our efforts will amount to nothing. The messaging for Aids had to be centered on these two groups. Women as mothers of the youth had to be taken on board and be asked to play the central role in addressing the challenges of the youth. We all know that Aids has killed many young people than any other age groups in the strata of the society.

In 1996, the world aids was celebrated under the theme "One World, One Hope". This theme made people realize that in spite of the hard-ships, we are still living in one world of hope. There was great hope that either the message of care and support will grow, or either a solution will be found in our life time. This theme came at the time where many people were beginning to lose hope. This was meant to give those where beginning to feel the impact of Aids more hope, and assurance that the whole world is hopeful of the solution to the problem. This was more informed by the fact that all stakeholders were activated to address the problem. The Non Governmental Organizations were hard at work; government departments were also busy in their fight against Aids. In my view it is from this theme that South Africa`s efforts gained momentum towards the establishment of South African National Aids Council.

The 1998 theme was "Force for Change: World AIDS Campaign with Young People". This was a theme that called for serious reflection of how far we had come and what lessons could be learned from the journey of ten years. This was a milestone period, a reflection on the decade of relentless fight against Aids. In 2007, the theme "Take the lead"; enjoined all leaders from all sectors of the society to take the lead in the fight against Aids.

Now over two decades later, what have we done? Are the statistics the only thing that we needed to show for all our efforts? Is there any hope? Have we kept our promise? Have we mobilized our youth? Have we stimulated people to have hope? These are the questions that must be answered by the leadership across all spheres of society regardless of their political affiliation. We need to be remembered as the leadership, which during its time, took actions that brought hope to the hopeless, brought joy to those who are sad, to brought relief to those in pain. We must be ready to stand up and be counted.

My brief reflection on various themes has exposed how impossible it would be for any government to attain those themes working on its own. This government is based on the slogan "working together we can do more". It is clear that all themes needed cooperation from other sectors in order to be successfully implemented. In this regard, I would like to single out one sector that has been a pillar of strength or a shoulder to cry on or good partner in service delivery. This is the sector that is working with the people at the grassroots level. This is the Non Governmental Organization sector. I think we need to pay special tribute to the NGO sector because their selflessness is without any doubt. Over years NGO sector has done much with little acknowledgment and appreciation.

NGO have assisted in closing the gap where government has been unable to reach people. All the themes resonate well with the ability of the NGO`s to reach out to people, by being there when nobody is there, by interacting with sectors of society according to their needs and preferences such as the youth and Women. The involvement of the NGO sectors is part of the strategy of the Department of Health and the Government of South Africa of taking the services to the people, through what is called universal coverage and equity of access to services.

These are some of the pillars of Primary Health Care services as based on the District Health System. In actual fact, the role played by the NGO sector is part of the Intersectoral collaboration that the public health sector hopes to build on for its successes. It is with painful realization of the fact that Government cannot do it alone that the NGO sector has become the tried and tested partner of Government.

It is also very clear that all the themes resonate very well with the need to build a strong and resilient Primary Health care. The centrality of communication to the PHC cannot be over emphasized. It is when people get clear and unambiguous message that they will have their lives changed and they will comply. The messages about HIV need to be communicated very well, designed for each sector and the strata of the community for it to be effective.

The themes of "Youth"; "Women"; "Sharing and community involvement" among others are all the fundamental areas of focus in the delivery of PHC services. The main clientele for PHC comes from youth and women. These are the vulnerable sections of the society and all efforts of protecting society must start with them. Community involvement will ensure that they get so capacitated that they can take care of their own lives. In that way they become active role players in the fight against Aids, rather than them being on the sidelines of the great show where their lives are being discussed.

We are meeting again this year as we did in the previous years, let us declare now, as we declared then, that we shall not submit. We have no choice but to deploy every effort, mobilize every resource, and utilize every skill that our nation possesses, to ensure that we prevail in this struggle for the health and prosperity of our nation. History has demonstrated the strength of a nation united and determined. We are a capable, innovative and motivated nation. Together we fought and defeated a system so corrupt and reviled that it was described as a crime against humanity. Together we can overcome this challenge. Let today be the dawn of a new era. Let there be no more shame, no more blame, no more discrimination and no more stigma. Let the politicization and endless debates about HIV and AIDS stop. Let this be the start of an era of openness, of taking personal responsibility, and of working together in unity to prevent HIV infections and to deal with its impact. Working together, we can achieve these goals!

Thank you.