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Opening remarks by H.E. Mr David Mabuza, Deputy President of The Republic of South Africa at the Hybrid Extended Plenary of the South African National Aids Council

Our Host and Premier of KwaZulu-Natal Province, Mr. Sihle Zikalala,
The Minister of Health, Dr. Joe Phaahla,
Ministers, Deputy Ministers, MECs, Premiers, and Mayors present,
Deputy Chair of SANAC, Ms. Steve Letsike,
Leaders of the SANAC Sectors in our midst,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
 
Good morning and a warm welcome to all of you to this Extended Plenary of the South African National Aids Council for the year. We also wish to welcome Dr Joe Phaahla, our Minister of Health and his deputy Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo to their first SANAC Extended Plenary as Minister and Deputy Minister respectively.  We wish them all the best as they execute their leadership responsibilities in this portfolio.
 
 
Covid-19 Context, and HIV and Aids
 
We meet in the context of our ongoing response to the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that has brought about unprecedented disruptions in our lives and the entire global economic system.
 
We are pleased that, as a country, we have made significant progress in containing the spread of Covid-19 infections while ensuring that we focus on saving lives and gradually opening up the economy to sustain jobs and livelihoods.
 
The battle is not over. The threat of the fourth wave and new mutation of the coronavirus resulting from the recently discovered variant potentially looms large in the horizon. Already, our country is on a red alert list by some countries when it comes to international travel. We cannot afford to be complacent and drop our guard and reverse the gains we have achieved.
 
Whereas we have since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, faced serious challenges including loss of lives of many of our compatriots, we have through targeted implementation of clinical and non-pharmaceutical measures managed to contain the spread of infections.
Our vaccination programme continues to offer hope that with more people vaccinated, we will save more lives and get the economy back on track. Of course, we have to deal with the challenge of vaccination hesitancy from some quarters of our people.
 
We remain determined to get more people vaccinated for this is the only credible solution based on science to ensure that we are protected against the changing coronavirus variant strains.
 
Ladies and Gentlemen
 
We are gathered here today as this multi-sectoral body, inspired by the call that our bold and combined actions must count to end the HIV and TB as public health threats by the year 2030. We are also demonstrating our determination to act as a united front in combatting new HIV and TB infections as well as the spread of Covid-19.
 
More than any other time, as leaders, we are called upon to reach out, educate, and engage our communities, in every street, and every house to ensure that we enhance our fight against HIV and AIDS, TB, STI’s and Covid-19.
 
As we undertake our work as SANAC, we will engage every sector of society to deepen partnerships and collective leadership so that we achieve maximum impact on the ground. At all times, we want our provincial meetings to be coupled with outreach programmes to communities and households.
 
Yesterday, we began with our outreach programme in which we engaged with various social sectors and stakeholders including traditional and interfaith leaders, the taxi industry, higher education, men’s sector and sex workers. The discussions and inputs were fruitful and constructive offering bright prospects for future collaboration and community mobilisation in the fight against HIV and AIDS, TB and Covid-19.
 
In my capacity as Chairperson of SANAC, we wish to convey our gratitude to all of you for the critical work you have been doing in building much needed networks to ensure that our country is counted among the leading countries in the fight against HIV, TB and STIs globally.
 
We are pleased to meet here in KwaZulu-Natal, for this province is recognised for its Operation Sukuma Sakhe as a model of integrated and innovative response to the HIV and AIDS. Partly, our outreach visit to this province, was to allow for an exchange of notes and to draw best practices that we can replicate in every corner of our country to take our fight against HIV, TB, Covid-19 and gender based violence and femicide forward.
 
It is now clear to all of us that Covid-19 will remain with us for a while, therefore it is critical to integrate our delivery systems and platforms in such a way that the fight against HIV and AIDS continues to receive our attention within the broader context of our Covid-19 response. We need to continue directing our resources to the fight against HIV and AIDS.
 
Our SANAC priorities for the term
 
When we started this term of office as the Sixth Administration, as the Presidency, we identified the following as key priorities in relation to SANAC:
                        i.         Strengthening prevention and treatment efforts, including ensuring the attainment of the 90-90-90 targets as targets set by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) to have 90 percent of People Living with HIV knowing their status, 90 percent of people diagnosed with HIV enrolled on treatment, and 90 percent of people on treatment having their viral load suppressed.
                      ii.         Strengthening partnerships among the different sectors of SANAC (Government, civil society and the private sector) to enhance the response to HIV and TB. 
                    iii.         Ensuring the full functionality of Provincial and District AIDS Councils, and strengthening their role in the response to HIV and TB.
                    iv.         Championing the agenda of addressing gender-based violence and femicide through the work of SANAC sectors, especially among young women, adolescent girls and girl-children who are most vulnerable to these social ills.
 
Accelerating the Implementation of NSP targets
 
In our efforts of advancing the priority areas and National Strategic Plan goals, we resolved with the support of the Inter-Ministerial Committee to engage with various sectors of society to ensure that together we move with speed towards ending HIV and TB as public health threats by the year 2030.
 
The current National Strategic Plan was planned to come to an end in March 2022, and we have since extended it to end in March 2023. This is to allow for the acceleration of programme implementation towards the achievement of set targets. As we push for the acceleration of these catch-up plans, we have agreed not to disrupt routine service delivery at all levels.
 
All provinces are expected to implement catch-up plans to ensure that we do not fall behind in the fight against HIV and AIDS, TB and STI’s. In this meeting, we are looking forward to hearing from all provinces on the implementation status of their plans.
 
Another area of intervention is treating TB as a priority and doing everything in our power to find missing TB patients, ensure their diagnosis and treatment, including finding and re-initiating treatment for those that are lost to follow-up so that we strengthen adherence to TB treatment and improve our TB Cure rates. As we do this, we must also screen for non-communicable diseases in order to know our health status. 
 
By working together and relentlessly implementing our National Strategic Plan, South Africans will be healthier and live longer thus contribute in accelerating the development of our country.
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
There is a concerning and shameful development of teenage pregnancies in our country. For instance, Statistics South Africa released a report on the 11th of this month showing that more than 34 000 teenage girls gave birth in 2020, of which 688 were younger than 10 years of age.
 
This is a blight on the moral standing of our society, which is barbaric and condemns the lives of our children to lifelong scars and trauma. It stunts their development and ruins their future. The long-term economic, social, psychological and legal effects of these statistics are disturbing. We must act now.
  
SANAC and all its sectors, should be at the forefront of raising awareness of this scourge and pronounce itself strongly in ensuring that those committing these sexual crimes face the law. Our programmes must focus on raising awareness, and forging collaborative efforts across society to ensure that we address poverty, gender-based violence, patriarchy, and all other behavioural and social determinants of HIV and AIDS.
 
Through your commitment, our fight against HIV, TB, STIs and Covid-19 has achieved significant progress despite challenges that still remain. In this regard, we welcome the continued collaboration and active participation of SANAC sectors like the Civil Society Forum and Private Sector Forum, which represent diverse views in policy deliberations relating to the country’s national response to the HIV and TB.
 
As Government, we will continue to strengthen the implementation of the district development model to foster effective coordination and improve the functionality of our provincial and district AIDS Councils.
 
In this regard, we will be working closely with the newly elected District Mayors to strengthen the District AIDS Councils in order to give effect to improving our collective delivery outcomes. The model of district participation will ensure that we make the desired impact where it matters most.
 
As we all know, a major factor in successfully implementing the National Strategic Plan, is the functionality of the AIDS Councils at all levels, from national all the way to the ward level. As we open this plenary, we wish to thank you once more for your hard work and commitment to the mission and goals of SANAC.
 
Let our actions count.
 
 
I thank you.