Source: Deputy Ministry of Defence
Title: Madlala-Routledge: Launch of Project Phidisa
MESSAGE OF THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF DEFENCE, MS NOZIZWE MADLALA-ROUTLEDGE, AT THE LAUNCH OF PROJECT PHIDISA, Pretoria, 1 December 2003
Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Your Excellency, Ambassador Hume
Chief of the SANDF
Officers and members of the SANDF
Ladies and Gentlemen
This is a great day for the members of the Department of Defence, especially for those in uniform, the US Department of Defence and the National Institute for Health of the United States. It gives me great joy that after all the work that we have achieved through our HIV/AIDS awareness programme, Masibambisane, we are able to take a step further, a giant step, to be precise, to render a necessary service to our soldiers and their families through Project Phidisa.
This is a collaborative effort aimed at investigating HIV/AIDS treatment options that will add value to the prevention efforts of the Department of Defence. Project Phidisa comes at the time Cabinet has approved the Operational Plan for Comprehensive Treatment and Care for HIV and AIDS in the public health sector as part of the government of South Africa's comprehensive strategy to combat HIV/AIDS.
Defence will, through Phidisa lead by example, thereby silencing and killing the stigma by focussing on treatment. Picking up from Masibambisane Beyond Awareness Campaign, Phidisa will provide an incentive for voluntary testing and disclosure. Those who are fearful of knowing their status because they thought of HIV and AIDS as a death sentence, will now be more willing to go for counselling and testing, in the knowledge that they will have the possibility of choice and treatment. This will help us create an open, caring and empowering environment where our personnel will take greater responsibility for their sexual health. As we learn how to manage HIV and AIDS we also learn how to better support those infected and affected by the virus. In his message to the world at the 46664 concert, Mr Nelson Mandela rightfully stated that HIV/AIDS is no longer a simple health issue, but a human rights imperative. We remain committed to a military that is ready for the complex tasks and responsibilities of modern warfare and transforming Africa and to reach that state of readiness, we must in partnerships intensify care and support for soldiers and their families affected by HIV and AIDS. The Phidisa programme involves clinical and operational research in HIV and AIDS in the military and family members of the SANDF and the program is entirely voluntary. Through this project the establishment of clinical research infrastructure within the SANDF will greatly enhance the quality of care and support to affected members of the SANDF and their families. As part of building capacity as required by the National Treatment Plan, we in the Department of Defence will establish important biomedical and the very much needed public health capacity that be utilised to address health issues of critical importance for military preparedness.
Prevention remains a cornerstone of our comprehensive interventions and Phidisa will provide the Department of Defence with the needed information that will lead to improved policies and guidelines directed at the management of HIV and AIDS. In addition, Phidisa will serve as a template for the utilisation of anti-retrovirals in the public sector as South Africa rolls out ARV therapy. While at the same time strengthening prevention efforts and publicly communicating important messages of deterrence and changing lifestyles and behaviour is critical.
Through Masibambisane, "working together", we were able to reach thousands of members of the DoD throughout the country. We are confident the impact of the Masibambisane message will before long be felt within the Defence community. Through Phidisa, "heal", we hope that those who are infected will be assisted to cope and we also expect to limit the adverse effects of HIV in the military. We all are aware of the challenge that we face in dealing with the HIV and AIDS pandemic and the success of the program will depend on a sound working relationship between partners including other government department and donors.
We remain very confident that our partners will continue to work closely with us in this regard to ensure successful and sustainable implementation of our comprehensive HIV and AIDS programme specifically in the areas of prevention, treatment, care and support, research, monitoring and surveillance. Phidisa is therefore complimentary to existing government policies on HIV and AIDS and as such we are confident that this program will add value to the whole of South African prevention and treatment policy. I believe that the resources that are needed for this project and the infrastructure that will be created are central to the success of Phidisa.
Soldiers are known for their ability to analyse a problem, strategise and confront it. Strategic planning as we know it today emanates from the military. Similarly on being confronted with this new enemy HIV and AIDS our department has needed to analyse it and plan our strategy for confronting it and either neutralising or defeating it.
I call upon all our partners to continue to work with us in this manner and I want to state my fullest support for this project. I commit myself to its success together with our partners, the United States of America government, who also supported the Masibambisane programme. I want to thank them for their support of this worthwhile and humanitarian endeavour.
I thank you.
Issued by the Deputy Ministry of Defence