30 October 2009

Zuma: more work needed on Aids

President Jacob Zuma on Thursday called for a change of behaviour and a renewed onslaught against HIV/Aids.

President Jacob Zuma on Thursday called for a change of behaviour and a renewed onslaught against HIV/Aids.

South Africa had very impressive awareness levels about HIV/Aids, well over 95%, he told the National Council of Provinces.

"We should now seriously work to convert that knowledge into a change of behaviour.

"Knowledge will help us to confront denialism and the stigma attached to the epidemic," he said. Prevention remained a critical part of the strategy.

"We need a massive change in behaviour and attitude, especially among the youth. We must all work together to achieve this goal," Zuma said.

World Aids Day, on December 1, should mark the beginning of a massive mobilisation campaign that reached all South Africans, and spurred them into action to safeguard their health and the health of the nation.

"Though a considerable undertaking, it is well within our means, and we should start now, today, to prepare ourselves for this renewed onslaught against this epidemic."

"I have instructed the minister of health, as we prepare for World Aids Day, to provide further detail to the nation on the impact of HIV and Aids on our people. He will do so next week."

It was also expected that the SA National Aids Council, under Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe's leadership, would develop a set of measures to strengthen the programmes already in place, he said.

Despite the comprehensive strategy to tackle HIV and Aids, acknowledged internationally, and the largest antiretroviral programme in the world, "we are not yet winning this battle".

"We must come to terms with this reality as South Africans. We must accept that we need to work harder, and with renewed focus, to implement the strategy that we have developed together. We need to do more, and we need to do better, together.

"If we are to stop the progress of this disease through our society, we will need to pursue extraordinary measures," he said. It would be necessary to mobilise all South Africans to take responsibility for their health and well-being and that of their partners, their families and their communities.

Though it posed a grave threat to the well-being of the nation, HIV and Aids should be treated like any other disease. There should be no shame, no discrimination, no recriminations. The stigma surrounding Aids had to be broken.

Sight should not be lost of the key targets in the national strategic plan, including reducing the rate of new infections by 50%, and extending the antiretroviral programme to 80% of those who needed it, both by 2011, Zuma said. - (Sapa, October 2009


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