Zuma welcomes Aids 2016 conference delegates

Zuma welcomes AIDS 2016 conference delegates

 President Jacob Zuma, on behalf of government, has welcomed all delegates to the international Aids 2016 conference to take place in Durban from Monday to Friday.

Jacob Zuma
Photo: GCIS

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, as chairman of the South African National Aids Council, (SANAC), will officially open the conference on Monday evening and will officiate at the conference on behalf of government and the partnership against Aids as a whole in South Africa, the presidency said in a statement on Sunday.

“We are pleased that the international community has chosen our country to host this conference again," Zuma said in the statement.

"We welcome the United Nations secretary general Mr Ban Ki-moon and the former heads of state and government in SADC [Southern African Development Community] who are champions of the fight against Aids.

"We are also pleased to host several international leaders in the entertainment, business, labour, and other fields who are joining governments to take stock and further advance the fight against HIV and Aids [going] forward," Zuma said.

South Africa was also truly pleased to host the conference during this period when the country had been making progress in its response to the disease since the policy turnaround in 2009.

On December 1, 2009 Zuma announced that the country would launch a massive campaign to mobilise all South Africans to get tested for HIV. The campaign resulted in more than 20 million people being tested. Various other measures were also introduced.

These included that all children under one year of age would get treatment if they tested positive, to reduce infant mortality over time, and all patients with both tuberculosis (TB) and HIV would get antiretroviral treatment if their CD4 count was 350 or less. These, and other interventions and further work done over the years, had yielded results, the presidency said.

The quality of life of people living with HIV had improved dramatically. HIV positive persons were living longer and led healthier lives. South Africa had significantly reduced the mother-to-child transmission of HIV, thus ensuring healthier babies.

More work still needed to be done to take the campaign forward. Government recently launched Phila, a massive HIV prevention campaign targeted primarily at young women and girls. A focus on HIV prevention was important for the country, towards the goal of an HIV-free generation.

Zuma also noted with appreciation the positive and constructive working relationship and co-operation between local stakeholders in the fight against Aids, under the auspices of the SANAC.

“This patriotic collaboration has contributed immensely to the progress that the country has scored, and also holds us in good stead as we continue waging the battle against HIV, Aids, and TB," he said.

Zuma also thanked the United Nations Aids programme (UNAIDS) for the support provided to South Africa in this crucial battle. Such support had contributed to the progress the country had made.

"The South African delegation, under the leadership of the deputy president, will share lessons from the progress made and also learn from other delegations on what they could be doing better.

“More importantly, the conference begins on Nelson Mandela Day. It provides an opportunity to pay tribute to Madiba for the role he played in advancing the fight against Aids and promoting care and support for those infected and affected. We wish local and international delegates a successful Aids 2016 conference," Zuma said.

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