World AIDS Day 2016: Remarks by the UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Gana Fofang

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South Africa World AIDS Day Theme:  It is in our hands to end HIV and TB

Deputy President and Chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa

Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi

The Premier of Gauteng, Mr David Makhura

Ministers and Deputy Ministers

Executive Mayor of Ekurhuleni District,  Cllr Mzwandile Masina

MECs present

Deputy Chairperson of SANAC, Ms Steve Letsike

HIV Ambassador, Ms Gugu Xaba

Representative of the PLHIV Sector, Mr Andrew Mosane

COSATU President, Mr Sdumo Dlamini

Chairperson of SABCOHA, Mr Shibishi Marutou

Civil Society representatives

UN colleagues

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

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Good morning.

Today, we remember all those that have passed away, in South Africa and around the world, and those infected and affected by HIV and TB.

South Africa had a key role in two major international AIDS achievements in 2016. The UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS was held in New York in June 2016. The Minister of Health led a strong delegation to the meeting, and provided key leadership to African states in the meeting.

In July, the world came to Durban for the AIDS 2016 International AIDS Conference.  We remember a brave little boy, Nkosi Johnson. He gave a moving speech 16 years ago, calling on the government to provide ARVs to all South Africans. Today  the government is  committed to ensuring all South Africans living with HIV and TB have access to care and treatment. Soon, South Africa will be able to apply for certification of the Elimination of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV.  The Conference showed how much South Africa  is achieving in the HIV response.  With the largest treatment programme in the world, death rates have come down, and South Africans are living longer and healthier lives. The people of South Africa, government, private sector and civil society together, are responsible for these wonderful achievements.

The development of the new National Strategic Plan Framework for HIV, STIs and TB has focused our minds on the challenges South Africa still faces. UNAIDS is noting that prevention efforts have stalled in many countries, and need a new and intensified focus.   Mr Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, and a brother to South Africa, notes in his World AIDS Day message, “… for girls in sub-Saharan Africa, the transition to adulthood is a particularly dangerous time. Young women are facing a triple threat: a high risk of HIV infection, low rates of HIV testing and poor adherence to HIV treatment.”

South Africa is again showing regional and global leadership in intensive prevention efforts with young women, in the development of the National Campaign for Young Women and Girls, “She Conquers”. The Chairperson of SANAC, the Deputy President, and the Minister of Health are leading this large scale and broad based programme to ensure that young women and girls aged 15-25 remain AIDS free.

The issues to further prevent HIV and TB infections are complex and challenging. Many of these are deep seated structural drivers of the epidemic, such as poverty, and unemployment, especially among young people. Gender based violence is a major structural driver for HIV infection among women, and there is increasing evidence that young women who are the victims of violence have much higher HIV infection rates.

These issues are being more openly discussed and recognized in South Africa, with increasing calls to more effectively address these issues. It is encouraging that the government is grappling with these issues, including pilot projects on PrEP for young women, and the possibility of decriminalization  of transactional sex. We recognize that these are difficult issues, which need broad based discussion and consultation with South African society.

There are also challenges in extending treatment to 90% of those diagnosed with HIV and TB. South Africa is currently treating more than half of people living with HIV – but there is still a large number to be put on treatment. There are also serious concerns with improving treatment adherence, and preventing treatment resistance. The need to establish unique identifiers for all people on HIV and TB treatment has been recognized.

In an era of lower economic growth, and tightening budgets around the world, the issue of the sustainability of the financing of the HIV and TB responses is a major concern.  The United Nations was pleased to support the government in undertaking the Investment Case studies of HIV and TB in South Africa. The private sector is making important contributions to the HIV and TB response in South Africa, especially though financing workplace programmes.  We applaud the government for financing over 80% of the direct costs of these epidemics in South Africa, at a cost of over $ 1.5 billion a year.  The UN is also working with the Presidency, NDOH, and civil society on an exciting new fundraising opportunity to benefit civil society, a national HIV telethon.

As  Madiba told us:  “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” South Africa is showing the world how to respond to the largest HIV epidemic in the world with compassion and solidarity, and with leadership. How to use the principles of human rights and ubuntu to ensure that no one is left behind. And focusing attention on the future of South Africa – to ensure that babies are born HIV free, young girls and boys remain HIV free, and that treatment, South African can remain AIDS free.

We are traveling together with you. We are your biggest champions, recognizing that you are showing the world how to respond to these epidemics. We have faith and confidence that South Africa will emerge as one of the first African countries to successfully End AIDS  and TB as public health threats.

It is in our hands to end HIV and TB.

Thank you.