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SA: Mlambo-Ngcuka: Treatment Action Campaign congress (16/03/2008)

16th March 2008

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Date: 16/03/2008
Source: The Presidency
Title: SA: Mlambo-Ngcuka: Treatment Action Campaign congress

Address by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa at the fourth Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) Congress Birchwood Hotel

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Salutation

Programme Director,
Members of the National Executive Committee of the Treatment Action Campaign,
Delegates of TAC branches
Sectors of the TAC and allies
Ladies and gentlemen:

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Introduction

This congress happens at a point where we comfortably can say that as partners, we have a clearer view of strengths, weaknesses, and indeed comparative advantages of each other as we join forces in the fight against HIV and AIDS. We consciously decided to build these relationships to fortify the national response to HIV and AIDS.

It is, therefore, my pleasure to stand here, to say a few words on this important occasion of the fourth congress of one of the country's most formidable forces of civil organisation. It is, also, not my intention to bore you with a long speech today, this being the last day of the Congress; I imagine all that is to be said about HIV and AIDS has been said. I, however, feel that it's quite opportune to reflect on the road we have travelled and perhaps then also begin to indicate some opportunities going forward.

Action against HIV AND AIDS

Almost a quarter of a century since the international society started responding to this disease, we all agree that there is still a lot to be done about HIV and AIDS.

The fact that the African continent bears the brunt of the disease poses a specific challenge to this generation; a challenge as to how to do things in such a manner that Africa is no longer seen as an HIV and AIDS "basket case", finding and implementing the best and most effective ways of reversing the tide against this disease.

How do we make sure that in the next decade we indeed do the things that break the back of this epidemic?

A supportive environment

I believe that this country has the necessary supportive environment; as contained in our legal frameworks, the policies, the strategies, the organisational arrangements as well as the leadership and partnerships necessary to mount a robust response.

The energy that we experienced with the restructuring of the National AIDS Council and the development of the National Strategic Plan (NSP) should be galvanised to ensure effective functioning of the different structures of South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) and the implementation of the Strategic Plan by all the identified lead agencies. I believe that the signs are there that these things are being done. We all need to be more responsible, accountable and vigilant in ensuring that each partner plays their part.

Therapy policy guidelines

I am comforted by the progress made in the finalisation by the Department of Health of the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) Dual therapy policy guideline. It is now up to all of us to ensure that the implementation of this policy, indeed, translates to reduction of child HIV transmission rates as envisaged in our Strategic Plan in this regard. The commitments expressed by the different role players have to translate to tangible outputs, numbers of pregnant women with access to service increasing more than before. The private and the not-for-profit sector should follow suite.

Focus of girls and women

I notice with encouragement that this congress has a strong focus on women, indeed appropriately so. I hope that your deliberations around the pertinent issues were informed by a combination of expert and experiential evidence on issues of women regarding their vulnerability to HIV and how they are the bedrock of the national responsible to the many devastating impacts of AIDS.

The nation relies on organisations such as the TAC to ensure that young girls are educated, young women are self-dependent that women of child-bearing age have access to and utilise reproductive health services, including those for PMTCT, that they are economically active and are able to make informed decisions about family lives. This is the most effective way of reducing vulnerability of women to this disease.

Responsibilities of men in the fight against HIV AND AIDS

We need even more committed social mobilisation to stop violence against women and children. As a society, we have to change the culture of acceptance of this type of violence. Let me repeat the call that men have to lead this fight against women and children abuse, as in most cases, the perpetrators are men whom the victims love, trust and from whom they hope for protection and security.

In the current environment where gender equality is still an objective to be realised in many communities, men play a leading role in the national response to HIV and AIDS. I am not too convinced that this sector is doing the best that it can. Let us see real men speaking out about HIV, being the first ones to take out condoms before a sex act, being the ones to encourage their partners to test and discuss the test results, being the ones to explain to the rest of the family about infant feeding choices for PMTCT babies.

Being the ones who are saying "enough of this epidemic"! Men can do these things.

Cordial relations between government and TAC

We, as government, realise that we cannot win this fight without partners such as the TAC. It is for the reason that we are grateful for the cordial relations that, even as we differ on one issue or the other, we are able to agree on the fundamentals that are necessary to move this "koloyi" forward. I am pleased that we have not been detracted by trivia to the detriment of the core business.

The work civil society in SANAC has done through the leadership of Mr Mark Heywood is (by civil society standards), phenomenal.

Contribution of the civil society of SANAC

In the SANAC, the civil society sectors, led by the faith-based sector, have agreed to undertake a cross sector mobilisation to improve the uptake of health services to prevent mother to child HIV transmission in April/May 2008.

The aim of this is to make SANAC seen and felt across our country, but also to mobilise around one of the key NSP targets: to reduce Mother To Child Transmission (MTCT) to less than five percent of pregnancies. The types of activities we envisage are:
* campaigns to promote community awareness and understanding of the steps that reduce MTCT
* the promotion of voluntary HIV testing by all pregnant women and their partners
* mass media campaigns on the issue through radio and newspapers
* providing more support to our health workers and ensuring that they have the information and support they need.

As Chairperson of SANAC, I would like to endorse and support this campaign. I also urge our different government departments to find a way in which they also can lend a hand in these campaigns. I also call on the mass media to provide free airtime and column space to promote knowledge of these issues.

Conclusion

Let me conclude by again thanking the organisers of this congress for inviting me to speak, thank your organisation for the important work that you continue to do in the fight against HIV and AIDS. I also take the opportunity to wish the TAC well in the period until the fifth Congress.

I thank you

Issued by: The Presidency
16 March 2008
Source: SAPA

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