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Statement by His Excellency Deputy President David Mabuza at the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS

President of the UN General Assembly, Mr Volkan Bozkir,
Madam Deputy Secretary-General, Ms Amina Mohamed,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentleman,
 
On behalf of the President and the People of South Africa, I take this opportunity to thank the President of the General Assembly for convening this important High-Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS.
 
Women and girls continue to be disproportionately affected by the burden of HIV and Aids, especially adolescent girls and young women aged between 15 and 24. This calls on us to address inequalities that hinder progress towards ending AIDS, which in South Africa accounts for 20 percent of the total global infections.
 
We therefore continue to advance a multi-sectoral response to AIDS that is grounded on human rights principles and equal access. This includes scaling up of economic empowerment of young women and girls, ensuring that they have access to sexual and reproductive health services as well as comprehensive sexuality education that is free of stigma and discrimination.
 
Notwithstanding prevailing challenges, we have made significant strides in responding to the epidemic. We have the largest treatment programme in the world, with 5 million people on antiretroviral therapy.
 
We note with concern that our progress towards reducing new HIV infections has been insufficient, as we have not met the 2020 targets. This has also been compounded by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
We have since through the South African National AIDS Council, prioritised fast-tracking the development and implementation of the HIV/TB catch-up plans in each of our country’s provinces.
 
These efforts are aimed at preventing new HIV infections, with a focus on populations most affected. In this regard, a combination of prevention methods is significant to our national response towards ending AIDS.
 
We also continue to ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic, does not reverse the achievements we have made thus far in responding to the HIV/AIDS and TB epidemics.
 
In order for the world to succeed in ending AIDS by 2030, we need to recognise and protect the rights of all key and vulnerable populations by involving people living with HIV and placing communities at the centre of our response.

We affirm that the protection of human rights of people living with HIV and other key and vulnerable populations, is paramount to enabling access to services and fighting stigma and discrimination.
 
We call on the global community to fully fund the AIDS response in line with the principle of Shared Responsibility and Global Solidarity.
 
Developing countries require sustainable funding for strengthening health systems, pandemic preparedness and response, as well as Recovery Plans necessitated by COVID-19 setbacks.
 
Resource allocation should prioritise critical areas such as the combination of prevention methods, community-led implementation, multi-sectoral coordination and promotion of human rights.
 
As a country, we continue to call for TRIPS flexibilities, to enable local production of medical commodities, and encourage technology-sharing mechanisms to meet public health objectives.
                                                                                        
We reaffirm our commitment to greater unity of the African continent, and we support the Common African Position developed under the leadership of the African Union.
 
We, therefore, support the 2021 Political Declaration towards ending AIDS, and we embrace the new targets and other commitments in the declaration.
 
I thank you!