Source: The Presidency
Title: SA: Zuma: Address by the President of South Africa, at the launch of the rollout of government's new, upscaled HIV/Aids treatment and prevention plan, Johannesburg
The Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and all Ministers and Deputy Ministers present,
Gauteng Premier Nomvula
Mokonyane and MECs present,
Deputy Chairperson of the SA National Aids Council, Mark Heywood,
UN Aids Executive Director Michel Sedibe and all representatives of international agencies,
Members of the diplomatic corps,
Fellow South Africans,
Today is an important day in our fight against HIV and AIDS, as we gather to launch our new upscaled HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment plan.
We are pleased to be able to provide an update on the roll out of the undertakings I made during my address to the National Council of Provinces in October last year, as well as during World AIDS Day in December.
At the NCOP I stated that there would be a renewed effort and focus on the HIV and AIDS programme. I said there would be a new way of doing things, and that we would confront the HIV and AIDS challenge head on.
On World Aids Day last year, I announced a few new approaches to increase our efforts to address HIV and AIDS in South Africa.
1. All children under one year of age will get antiretroviral treatment if they test HIV positive, irrespective of CD4 level.
2. All patients with both TB and HIV will get antiretroviral treatment if their CD4 count is 350 or less.
3. All pregnant HIV positive women with a CD4 count of 350 or less will be started on antiretroviral treatment.
4. All other HIV positive pregnant women not falling in this category will be put on treatment at 14 weeks of pregnancy to protect the baby, and finally,
5. That we would launch a massive counselling and testing campaign, and that all health institutions in the country would be ready to receive and assist patients, and not just a few accredited ARV centres.
I am happy to announce today that all of these provisions came into effect on 1 April this year.
More than 1000 health facilities now provide HIV and AIDS treatment, with a few hundred more scheduled to start initiation before the end of June this year. There had been just over 500 facilities only before April.
Since the first of April, we have also begun to expand the programme for the prevention of mother to child transmission, and antiretroviral therapy for children as undertaken in December.
This programme is aimed at reducing the number of children infected with HIV, but also to intervene as soon as possible with those children where transmission has still occurred, despite our best efforts.
We believe it would be futile to protect children from HIV and then lose them to other avoidable causes.
There is thus a concerted effort by government to ensure that children have access to comprehensive health services.
In this regard, on the 12th of April, we launched a massive immunisation campaign against measles and polio.
The fight against TB has also been given a new life with the launch of the Kick TB campaign.
Last year we highlighted that the levels of tuberculosis were unacceptably high, with 1% of the population being HIV-infected. We also mentioned a TB-HIV co-infection rate of 73%.
Compatriots and friends,
We are pleased to announce today that the Department of Health is ready to provide HIV counselling and testing services to all.
As of the 1st of April, all 4 300 public health facilities in the country are able to provide the service.
Under the new plan, all people visiting a hospital or clinic for services would be offered HIV counselling and testing.
However let us stress that the decision whether to test or not is still a patient's individual, voluntary and confidential choice.
The HIV counselling and testing campaign is part of a broader prevention programme, which includes:
• Information, education and social mobilisation.
• Detection and management of sexually transmitted infections.
• The widespread provision of male and female condoms.
• The introduction of a national medical male circumcision programme.
• Safe blood transfusion.
• Preventative treatment for rape survivors at all health facilities.
• The prevention of mother to child HIV transmission programme.
People often people think of HIV counselling and testing services as being primarily focused on determining who is positive, and making sure that they are enrolled into care and treatment programmes.
However, the more important function is to identify all those people who are HIV negative, and then provide them with the tools and information to remain negative, while also screening for other health conditions.
People being tested for HIV will therefore also be screened for conditions such as diabetes, blood pressure, tuberculosis and others.
These various tests and screenings will help health officials to intervene timeously rather than wait until someone is ill before addressing problems.
We are truly hopeful that we will now identify people in need of care and treatment much earlier than before.
Due to the size of the testing and counselling programme, and the labour force needed to make this a reality, we have appealed to retired nurses, doctors, pharmacists, social workers and other cadres of health workers to join the campaign.
More than 2000 retired health workers have volunteered to assist in the campaign. They have given true meaning to our message that "Working Together We can Do More".
We congratulate these patriotic South Africans and thank them most heartily for this contribution to their country.
Ladies and gentlemen, we know that we cannot treat our way out of this epidemic and thus the major message today is on prevention. We need all South Africans to take responsibility for their own health, and future.
In our prevention drive, as a first step, Government will increase the provision of male condoms from 450 million per year currently, to more than 1.5 billion condoms.
We are also revitalising our male sexual reproductive health by increasing the provision of medical male circumcision services.
The government is expanding from the current pilot sites to wide-scale implementation, starting with KwaZulu-Natal.
The KwaZulu-Natal government has committed that the province will perform 2.5 million procedures by 2015.
This programme will expand the services to two more provinces by December 2010, and all provinces will provide this service in 2011.
Ladies and gentlemen,
There are some challenges we must deal with around HIV and AIDS which contribute to the delay in stemming the tide of this epidemic.
One of these is attitudes and the stigma attached to the disease. We have to work harder, together, to fight the perceptions and the stigma.
We have to make all South Africans understand that people living with HIV have not committed any crime, and that they have rights like any other citizen.
We have to expand the knowledge and understanding of the epidemic to protect affected individuals and families.
The stigma arises from fear, and fear from ignorance. Let us fight ignorance. The greatest benefit from the HIV testing campaign should be the education of our people and the promotion of the rights to human dignity and privacy of those living with HIV.
Therefore as we encourage all our people to test and know their status today, we must emphasise certain basic and fundamental messages.
The HIV test is confidential. By promoting the testing campaign publicly, we are not putting pressure on people to undertake public tests.
The decision is made by an individual alone or as people in a relationship to take the tests, after counselling and being provided with information and implications.
People do not have to take a public test or release their results if they do not want to do so. Everything will be done confidentially.
Everybody's privacy and dignity must be respected by health professionals and the public in general. We must also respect the HIV status of all South Africans, whether positive or negative.
Let us not make those who test HIV positive to live in shame and fear. We must support each other emotionally during that difficult time, and also materially where possible.
Fellow South Africans, you will recall that on the 8th of April I took my own HIV test. This was my fourth test, as I have decided to take the test at regular intervals. I encourage all to do the same.
After careful consideration, I have decided to share my test results with South Africans. The purpose is to promote openness and to eradicate the silence and stigma that accompanies this epidemic.
My April results, like the three previous ones, registered a negative outcome for the HI virus. I want to emphasise that by disclosing my HIV negative status, I am not putting pressure on any South African to do the same.
Anyone's HIV status is private and confidential. Disclosure is an individual decision. We must respect the decisions of those who choose to keep their status confidential, whether positive or negative.
We will not win the war against AIDS if we engage in witch-hunts against people, and start campaigns of who is positive or negative, as if this was a game. It is a very serious matter.
Compatriots and friends, as much as today is focused on the launch of the new antiretroviral treatment programme as well as the HIV counselling and testing campaign, I need to acknowledge that today, 25 April, is World Malaria Day.
In South Africa, we have made great strides in controlling malaria over the past decade.
Malaria cases and deaths declined by 90% in 2009 in comparison to the year 2000.
We need to be able to match these achievements against malaria with significant reductions in HIV infection, and TB. Working together we will achieve that.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me thank all our partners in the HIV and AIDS programme.
I thank all the sectors represented in the SA National Aids Council as well as our international partners.
I also want to thank you for your indulgence when we had to move the date of this launch from the 15th to today, due to my work schedule.
I wish all stakeholders all the best with the campaign.
I thank you!