Address by the Inter-Ministerial Committee led by Minister Jeff Radebe following the media briefing for the 21st international aids conference to be held in Durban

13/06/2016

Thank you for joining us at this media briefing on AIDS 2016.

South Africa will for the second time in partnership with the International Aids Society host the Biannual International Aids Conference.

Sixteen years ago, (2000) we were privileged to host the 13th Conference here in Durban.

The International AIDS Society is the world’s leading independent association of professionals involved in the fight against HIV, boasting 16 000 members in 170 countries.

The 21st International AIDS Conference, commonly known as AIDS2016, will be held from 18 to 22 July 2016, at the Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal under the theme: Access Equity Rights – Now.

This is a call to action to work together and reach the people who still lack access to comprehensive treatment, prevention, care and support services.

To ensure the success of this event, President Jacob Zuma recently established an Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Conference comprising of 16 Ministers, the Premier of KZN as well as the Mayor of eThekwini.

The Committee held its meeting today, in the host city of eThekwini, where we were appraised on the state of readiness by national, provincial and local government to host AIDS 2016.

The Committee received an update on infrastructure, security, health and immigration plans for the International AIDS Conference.

The Committee will in the next hour conduct an inspection of the Chief Albert Luthuli ICC and surrounding facilities to assess logistical arrangements.

This includes the interplay between events in the main conference venue as well as the nearby Global Village, an open access space with free conference programming that will allow members of the public to partake in the conference.

Based on the reports we received during this morning’s meeting, we are satisfied that indeed South Africa is ready to welcome the world and to host a successful AIDS 2016 where history will be made in advancing the global fight against HIV, AIDS and TB.

The International AIDS Conference is the largest conference on any global health or development issues in the world. First convened during the peak of the epidemic in 1985, it continues to provide a unique forum for the intersection of science, advocacy, and human rights.

The world’s top scientists, civil society members and policymakers will convene at AIDS2016 to discuss the fight against HIV and AIDS.

The Conference, initially held in 2000 was a watershed moment in our national response to – and global action on – the AIDS epidemic.

The return to Durban is an opportunity to take stock of the progress the world is making in improving access to prevention, treatment and eliminating stigma associated with HIV and AIDS.

Indeed, the international community will join South Africa in recalling the impassioned and poignant plea of the child activist, Nkosi Johnson, who in the year 2000 bore the distinction of being the longest-surviving child born with HIV in the country.

Nkosi Johnson brought home the impact of the AIDS epidemic with a self-written address, which was broadcast globally, carrying his call for treatment and care for people living with HIV.

Several months later, Nkosi Johnson died at the age of 12.

In 2016, we continue to honour Nkosi’s brave and short-lived struggle and we continue to build on his legacy.

 

SOUTH AFRICA’S JOURNEY

AIDS 2016 provides a platform for our country to tell the story of our journey.

Today, our response to HIV and AIDS is framed by a combination of our own National Development Plan, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

South Africa has the world’s biggest HIV and AIDS treatment programme, which started in earnest with the launch of the world’s biggest testing campaign, popularly known as HCT campaign in 2010.

18 million South Africans tested to know their status within 18 months of the HCT campaign.

And today, about 10 million South Africans test on an annual basis.

AIDS deaths in South Africa declined from 320 000 in 2010 to 140 000 in 2014, and mother-to-child transmission of HIV reduced from 70 000 babies in 2004 to less than 7 000 in 2015.

However, we continue to face an uphill battle in socio-behavioural changes, especially in the age group of 15 to 24 among girls and young women.

In this age cohort, there are 5 000 new infections per week in 14 Southern and Eastern African countries – but half of these occur in South Africa alone.

While we have come a long way, our struggle against HIV, AIDS and TB continues.

AIDS 2016 presents South Africa with an opportunity to showcase achievements, share its challenges and be exposed to developments globally that can help us prevent new infections, step up treatment and care and end discrimination and stigma.

 

THE CONFERENCE

Against this background, it is fitting that AIDS 2016 will officially open on Nelson Mandela Day, Monday, July 18.

This historic event will bring together 18 000 conference delegates attendees and 1 000 journalists representing 180 countries.

The conference will offer a best-in-class programme with more than 500 sessions, workshops, and programme activities.

The international co-chair for the conference is Mr Chris Beyrer, President of the Geneva-based International AIDS Society. The South African co-chair is Dr Olive Shisana, former Chief Executive Officer of the Human Sciences Research Council and now President and CEO of Evidence Based Solutions, a privately held policy, research, and ICT firm.

 

Programme highlights include the following focal areas:

  • HIV Vaccine & Functional Cure: Continuing Momentum
  • Prevention Interventions and Trials: Key findings and pathways
  • Implementation Science:  Progress across the HIV cascade
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylactics: Fulfilling its Current & Future Potential
  • HIV Co-infections & Co-morbidities: Overcoming Remaining Challenges

AIDS 2016 is taking a new approach to the traditional pre-conferences, offering a more formal programme to enhance the delegate experience.

For the first time, a selected group of independently organised pre-conference meetings will be held within the main conference venue over the weekend of 16 and 17 July, preceding AIDS 2016.

These meetings will conclude before the satellite sessions and AIDS 2016 Opening Ceremony on Monday 18 July 2016.

 

HIGH-LEVELPARTICIPANTS

The conference will also benefit from high-level participation by political leadership, scientists, donors and thought leaders.

 

CIVIL SOCIETY PARTICIPATION

AIDS 2016 will be the most inclusive and representative AIDS conference ever – with an historic commitment to doubling the number of scholarships or sponsorships to support attendance by people living with HIV, women, and youth.

The conference will also feature a Global Village is a diverse, dynamic and vibrant community-driven space where people from all over the world gather to meet, share and learn from each other in the global response to HIV.

This is a space that is accessible free of charge and allows participants to bridge the areas of science, leadership and community through shared dialogue

The Global Village will host around 250 activities, such as:

  • • Daily plenary broadcasts
  • • Sessions (debates, presentations, workshops, etc.)
  • • Marketplace booths
  • • Networking zones
  • • NGO exhibition booths, and
  • • Performances, theatre plays and art exhibits.

The Global Village and pre-conference meetings are important opportunities for ordinary South Africans to participate, tell their stories and propose solutions in the fight against HIV, AIDS and TB.

South Africa owes its remarkable progress in this fight to the strong partnership between government, civil society, the scientific community, the private sector and the donor community.

Civil society participation in AIDS 2016 is, therefore, a prerequisite for moving South Africa forward from this point on.

THE ECONOMIC DIVIDEND

All three spheres of government are working very closely together to achieve – in terms of conference substance and logistical arrangements – our successful hosting of and participation in this event, which we are honoured to host for a second time.

The Province of KwaZulu-Natal and the City of eThekwini have over a number of years acquired great experience and efficiency in hosting large-scale national and international events.

We can therefore confidently promise visiting and local delegates that the conference will be efficient and safe and that the logistical support will enable delegates to focus on the principal objective of advancing the global fight against HIV and AIDS.

The people of KwaZulu-Natal and South Africa at large are honoured once again to host international visitors whose travel to our country will be accompanied by an injection of revenue into the tourism and services sector as well as job opportunities.

We call on residents in the host province of KwaZulu-Natal to open their hearts and homes as we welcome delegates, whom we would like to see return to our country after the wonderful experience they would have had at AIDS2016.

AIDS2016 will provide a global platform to raise awareness about the work that remains to be done to make the end of AIDS a reality.

I thank you.

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