MEC for Health, Mr MS Sokatsha
HOD for Health, Mrs Matlaopane
The CEO and Board Members of the South African Business Coalition
Members of the Community
Ladies and Gentlemen
As the Northern Cape Leadership collective we take pride in the laudable efforts of our business community who are taking active steps in the fight against the scourge of HIV/AIDS.
We welcome the launch of the Business Sector Implementation Plan for HIV/AIDS/TB and STI’S. As this comprehensive plan highlights, no business or community is immune from AIDS.
Indeed, we are greatly encouraged by the commitment of the South African Business Coalition On HIV/AIDS for mobilising the business community and society in general to partner with government and raise awareness about the dangers of this dreadful disease.
This example set by our business community would surely raise awareness amongst the sector and help reverse the devastating effects of the scourge of HIV/AIDS on our society.
Indeed, Ladies and Gentlemen, businesses are hit hard by HIV/AIDS, but they are also in a unique position to help in the fight back.
The private sector interacts with most HIV infected people in our country -- directly in employment relations or more indirectly through employees’ families, customers, or as community members.
By joining forces to fight the disease, the private sector, together with government and civil society, has an ideal opportunity to exercise its corporate social responsibility in a way that makes both business and moral sense.
Certainly, this plan reflects the seriousness and determination of all our people for the critical need to reduce the number of new infections and, most importantly, to invest much needed resources to control and arrest the spread of HIV.
The cumulative effect of HIV and AIDS has caused immense human suffering on the continent.
The most obvious effect of this crisis has been illness and death, but the impact of the epidemic has certainly not been confined to the health sector only; households, schools, workplaces and economies have also been badly affected.
The only available and sensible choice therefore is for the people and government to mount a concerted and comprehensive multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional response in the fight against HIV/AIDS at community, national, and regional levels.
While continuing to ensure that programmes, services and support for HIV&AIDS, STIs and TB prevention reach the general population, a greater focus will also be given to sectors of the population at increased risk such as truck drivers, sex workers, men who engage in sexual relations with men, migrant, seasonal, mine and farm workers, victims of sexual violence and abusers of alcohol, and the youth.
Programme Director, AIDS causes productivity to fall; increases business costs and negatively impacts on the wider economic climate that influences business profitability.
HIV/AIDS is a human crisis but it is also a threat to sustainable social and economic development.
In the long-term this has the combined effect of reducing the market size for business, particularly in markets outside of the basic necessities of food, housing and energy, as well as reducing total resources available for production and investment, thus stifling and reducing economic growth.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the loss of life and the debilitating effects of the illness reduce the capacity of individuals to sustain employment which, in turn, undermines efforts to reduce poverty and promote development.
The disease not only affects the health of workers, but takes its toll on their savings, the resources of their families and their overall productivity as they start spending more time taking care of the sick.
Ladies and Gentlemen, HIV/AIDS hits those young people aged 15 to 24 years the hardest as they register the greatest number of new infections.
These young adults are members of the current and future workforce and HIV/AIDS has therefore become a critical issue for every company in the world today.
Businesses find it hard to cope with the human toll among their workforce.
So many people have died from HIV/AIDS in our country and the rest of the continent that even allowing employees time off to attend funerals of colleagues and family members has severely hit production.
The economic impact of AIDS therefore reaches beyond the infected population, their families, communities, and employers.
It affects the whole nation as well as the entire economy!
Firms depend on the economic dynamism of the economies in which they operate, and as increasing numbers of skilled employees in their most productive years fall victim to the disease, the consequences become even more severe.
If companies fail, it leaves employees and communities in greater poverty!
Therefore HIV/AIDS becomes as much a business and an economic issue as it is a health and humanitarian concern. Workforces and consumers alike are being destroyed by the virus, while future generations are stunted by its effects.
The welcome and positive private sector action to fight HIV/AIDS is just one way in which business is proving its value as a true partner in development.
There is growing recognition that shared problems, such as HIV/AIDS, require shared solutions involving all of society.
It is not surprising that small businesses have been more severely affected by the HIV epidemic than any other sector of economic activity as these micro and small enterprises have smaller workforces, and the loss of one worker can jeopardise the survival of the whole business.
The AIDS epidemic today is unparalleled in the scale of devastation it causes, and it is clearly an issue that no one can address alone.
Business is an essential partner in the response to AIDS, and it can and is making a difference; a positive and opportune difference!
Programme Director, the development and implementation of this plan is to be based on human rights and gender sensitive considerations.
The stigma associated with HIV remains extremely high and fear of discrimination causes some people, including “more-at-risk” population groups, to avoid learning about their HIV status, disclosing their status, or seeking medical care.
Therefore, to successfully address HIV, we need more and better community-level approaches that integrate HIV prevention and care with more comprehensive responses to social service needs.
The human rights sector, including the Human Rights Commission and the Department of Justice, must mobilise their efforts in tackling and addressing the issues related to human rights violations of people living with HIV and TB, including vulnerable groups.
We must have respect for the rights of those individuals living with HIV and compassion for all those facing the personal tragedies of HIV/AIDS.
We must be prepared to stand against the prejudices and fears that prevent so many of us from connecting with the epidemic and those it affects.
We must find the resolve and the patience to identify and implement the changes that can help prevent new infections and improve the circumstances of those people already infected.
Ladies and gentlemen; each of these challenges applies to business as much as it does to governments, NGOs and the general public.
Programme Director, many people, particularly in the developing world, remain either uninformed or misinformed about the nature of HIV/AIDS and have thus little access to available preventive measures.
There are a significant number of factors that have contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS, which includes poverty, illiteracy, and the status of women in many societies.
The massive roll-out of an aggressive awareness campaign by all sectors of society will certainly stem the rapid spread of the disease.
Building awareness of the severity of the impact of HIV/AIDS on business is one of the most important elements in assisting businesses to respond effectively.
In other countries such as Thailand, extensive and well-established prevention campaigns appear to be paying off, with studies showing a remarkable decline in infection rates.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am confident that this strategic plan that we are launching here today, will be vigorously implemented, without fail, by all stakeholders in order to assist to reduce the infection rate and create all- round awareness.
We would once again like to acknowledge all the structures, including the provincial, district and local Aids councils, NGO’s, businesses and development partners who all contributed to the development of the implementation Plan for HIV /TB & STI's.
I am confident that all partners will continue to support and collaborate in the implementation and execution of this important plan.
Working together we can certainly do more!
I thank you