Aids: world ‘must not back down now’

23 July 2012

Despite the progress made in combating HIV/Aids over the past two decades, the world could not now afford to become complacent; decisive action, underpinned by global solidarity, was needed to turn the tide on the epidemic, South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe told the 19th International Aids Conference (Aids 2012) in Washington, DC on Sunday.

The largest and most important global gathering on HIV/Aids, the week-long conference opened on Sunday, attended by some 25 000 delegates from around the world, including HIV professionals, activists, global and community leaders and people living with HIV.

Aids 2012 LIVE

South Africa’s participation at Aids 2012 will be webcast live on on Monday evening – schedule to be confirmed – watch this space!

Addressing the opening plenary, Motlanthe said the HIV pandemic “remains one of humanity’s greatest challenges, requiring a common front and commitment from all of us.”

The successes of the past two decades “must neither distract us nor make us complacent,” Motlanthe said. “More importantly, this is not the time to reduce our contribution to the fight against HIV and Aids.”

From ’emergency’ to ‘consolidation’ response

The world was moving from an “emergency” to a “consolidation” phase in its response to the pandemic, the Deputy President said, and this phase “requires a new approach, a new paradigm underpinned by, among others, the principles of global solidarity, mutual accountability and transparency”.

To give effect to these principles, Motlanthe called for:

  • Better co-ordination of the global health architecture;
  • Predictable, sustainable financing for the HIV response;
  • Good governance and oversight with regard to appropriate use of resources;
  • Decisive action in dealing with the social determinants of health; and
  • Legal frameworks which are responsive to the human rights ethos.

Motlanthe told the gathering that the African Union (AU), recognising that sub-Saharan Africa remained the epicentre of the pandemic, had committed itself to strengthening the continent’s response through the adoption of an AU roadmap.

African Union roadmap

The roadmap, adopted by African leaders at the AU summit in Ethiopia last week, would “explore a set of practical African-sourced solutions for enhancing shared responsibility and global solidarity for Aids, TB and malaria responses in Africa on a sustainable basis by 2015,” Motlanthe said.

It would focus on three strategic pillars, namely, diversified financing, access to medicines, and enhanced health governance.

South Africa, for its part, was no less committed to scaling up its response, Motlanthe said, noting that, “since South Africa is the country with the largest number of people living with HIV in the world and the largest country in the most affected region, the global fight against HIV and Aids cannot be won without success in South Africa”.

South African successes

The country has one of the world’s most comprehensive HIV prevention and treatment programmes, and one that it is showing significant progress, Motlanthe told the delegates, noting that:

  • 1.7-million South Africans living with HIV are now receiving free antiretroviral (ARV) treatment;


  • 20-million South Africans have voluntarily tested for HIV since the government launched its testing and counseling campaign in April 2010; and



  • The rate of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in South Africa has dropped from 8% in 2008 to 3.5 percent in 2010 and to 2.7 percent in 2011.


World ‘within inches of the summit’

However, the war “is not yet over”, Motlanthe said, calling on civil society “to continue to keep governments accountable to the commitments they have made,” and urging “development partners, including foundations, philanthropists and investors, to maintain their investments in our efforts to turn the tide.

“We look forward to concerted efforts by all partners to work with the AU and its members to implement its roadmap to ensure a sustainable response to HIV, TB and malaria.

“Our collective efforts, resilience and determination have brought us to within inches of the summit of the mountain. We dare not slide back!”

SAinfo reporter