Speech by Dr Bevan Goqwana MP (ANC) on World Aids Debate

24 November 2011

Approximately 30 years ago Health Professionals were perplexed by a disease that was killing people and were dying from. It was an infection that was not usually that lethal and theses patients had very low immunity in their systems.

It was not too long that they found that it was because of a virus, but this virus had peculiar tendencies as compared to well-known viruses and, in fact, it was not killing persons, but exposed the patients to other unusual killers to take over.

To date this virus all over the world has infected 35 million people and in South Africa 5.6 million. If you work it out, those who are affected, and say an average family has about 5 inhabitants, then 25 million people in South Africa are affected, i.e. every second person is affected. For every standard this is too much.

The emergence of this virus with its peculiar tendencies is transmitted where we are supposed to procreate, which is a difficult one to avoid if the human species have to survive.

The emergency of this occurs is compounded when :

  • Mobility of people is very high. It can have breakfast in Mthatha only to sleep in Britain and this goes with all temptations and attractions without protection.
  • This occurs when people have entitlement in most of the things eg. having sex and without analysing or condoms.
  • This happens when we have neglected to know that rights go with responsibilities. We want to have rights, but the consequences of those must go to somebody else.
  • This happens within our culture because of globalization have been diluted and some stopped without analysing them whether they were right or not.
  • This comes at a time when the use of things that intoxicate the brain hence irrational decisions is on the increase when somebody has taken dagga and intoxicated it with alcohol. That person would rarely, if at all, think about the use a condom or control his or her lust.
  • This comes at a time where people are controlled by their emotions and not them controlling emotions, what one would call emotional intelligence.
  • This comes at a time that the wealthy and physically strong can do as they like to vulnerable, poor and the weak and these cannot say no because it is survival for them to try and get money.
  • This comes at a time where people do not see others as equals, especially in rural areas where females are still looked down on as subjects.

Honourable Speaker, I am mentioning these solely because HIV/AIDS is a societal problem. It is not for one person to handle it, but all of us.

Not only the Minister of Health and the Deputy President.

First to degress a little bit. I have said before that in this House that on earth anything that you do wrong you mis-manage results in health problems and death. We are born in health and we die in health. It is entry and exit.

I am going to look at climate change. For people it is not only going to be problematic because people are going to die of hunger, heat stroke or chemical problems. But the micro organism bacteria, viruses and fungi - when their space is threatened in one way or the other they are going to mutate and change even those that are harmless might be harmful, even those that were not lethal will be virulent.

There are so many theories of how HIV started, but I am sure the climate change everywhere is going to be affected, including the viruses and bacteria. So if we do not deal with climate change now let us be prepared that new viruses are going to be coming and we should be prepared for their vaccines and new treatment all the time, including modifying the ones that are at hand.

If these viruses are mismanaged the impact becomes too huge, besides paying tax for drugs and hospitals. The virus infects the economically viable. When their immune system is down they are off work more than at work with full payment of salaries. Even if somebody is boarded though not contributing economically, gets money. So it is going out and nothing in. We have come to accept that the parents are burying the young and homes are looked after by retired grannies.

I do not think there is any language that has this name. When I loose my wife I am a widower. If my wife looses me she is a widow. If we both die our kids are orphans but if kids die there is no name for the parents who do not have kids.

This means that what is happening is abnormal.

The ANC led government has done a lot. I have said this was noticed about 30 years ago. The ANC then was not part of government then, but when it came in 17 years ago policies, strategy were done and lately the ANC government has managed to drop ARV prices by 50% and have tried to remove the stigma by asking people to get tested. The ANC government has made it possible for orphans to survive even without parents. Mother to child transmission has dropped.

All this tells us that we are in good hands. We have visionaries and leaders that are innovative. We must not loose hope, but this cannot be handled by one person, but let us join hands and unite against this virus and we are sure to defeat it.

If we can invest money and human resources in fighting this disease. This is not for political point scoring, but let us unite and fight this disease. We cannot be defeated by it.