Speech by Minister Jeff Radebe on the occasion for the HIV Counselling and Testing Campaign (Eskom’s Ingula Pumped Storage Scheme, Ladysmith)

23 September 2014

Photo of: Minister Jeff Radebe

Premier of KZN, Mr. Senzo Mchunu
Premier of Free State, Mr. Ace Magashule
Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla
MEC for Health in KZN, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo
MEC for Health in Free State, Dr Benny Malakoane
Executive Mayor of uThukela District, Cllr Mazibuko
Inkosi Khumalo
Chairman of Eskom, Mr. Zola Tsotsi
Chief Executive of Eskom, Mr Tshediso Matona
Deputy Chair of SANAC, Ms Mapaseka Letsike
A very good morning to everyone!
It is an honor to be among you all today on a very special and unique occasion, the launch of the HIV Counselling and Testing Campaign here in Ingula, an initiative led by Eskom in collaboration with the Provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Free State.
Compatriots, the event taking place here today gives full expression to the National Development Plan (NDP) in numerous ways. At the core of the plan is a focus on capabilities – the capabilities of our people and of our country and of creating opportunities for both. The capabilities that each person needs to live the life they desire differ, but must include education, skills, decent accommodation, nutrition, safe communities, social security, transport and job opportunities. The capabilities that the country needs to enable citizens to thrive include a capable state, leadership from all sectors of society, a pact for mutual respect and trust.
This event is unique in that this is an initiative of Eskom, a key strategic player in our quest to “power” South Africa and empower its citizens. The NDP states that South Africa will strive towards an energy sector which promotes economic growth and development through appropriate investments and with due regard to environmental sustainability.
We have made it our resolution that the State must assume a developmental posture across the broad spectrum of socioeconomic challenges facing our people. We have since noted that one of the problem facing our people with regards the trio challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment is due to the structural defects in our economy occasioned by the legacy of the past. That is why we applaud the Eskom Executive for heading the call for Public Private Partnerships on the socioeconomic challenges that I have just alluded to.
We have said that the stumbling block to the full socioeconomic emancipation of our people are the structural limitations occasioned by monopoly capital in our economy. Our people are cast into the fringes of the mainstream economy and many people expect government working alone to redeem these masses of our people from poverty. Indeed government has provided millions with shelter for homes, bursaries for education, free primary health care and various regimes of social grants. But everywhere in the world government can only do this much.
We take this occasion to challenge other State Owned Enterprises to walk the talk with regards their commitment to the Developmental State posture that has become government policy. Likewise we challenge other private business entities to come up with innovative ways in which we could ensure successful Public Private Partnership on the various challenges facing our people including HIV, TB and other related health issues.
We also take this opportunity to challenge all leaders in society to lead not only in service delivery protests, but also in service delivery initiatives, working hand in glove with local municipalities to bring about working solutions to the various socioeconomic challenges highlighted by persistent poverty, inequality and unemployment. We can only emulate the greatness of past heroes such as Madiba’s long walk to freedom by walking the talk! Today we lay it bare for all to know that the initiative of each and everyone of us as citizens is what we cumulatively make ours a great nation!
Today, Eskom is focusing on its most important and crucial resource – its employees, paying particular attention to the health of the people. This is an aspect that is highlighted in our National Development Plan – the inextricable link between health and development.
Today, a special focus is on HIV Counselling and Testing as well as screening for other non-communicable diseases. This is an area of special emphasis in the NDP given the huge burden of disease due to HIV and TB.
This launch of the HIV counselling and Testing Campaign is the first since the new administration took office.
This launch is also the first to include 2 provinces – KwaZulu-Natal and Free State – thus highlighting the challenges exposed by migration and the movement of people and provision of quality health services under these conditions.
Today indeed marks a unique milestone not only in our response to HIV and TB, but in our collective ability to collaborate across diverse areas to maximise our gains as we work together to move our country forward.
I would like to commend Eskom on this particular initiative and the work they have continued to do since they launched first in Medupi and then Kusile. What this demonstrates is a commitment to be in this for the long haul – because this is what it is going to take to achieve what we have set out to do. The extent of the challenges we are working together to address in the specific context of HIV and TB require such a commitment.
It is also important to reflect on this initiative in the context of what is happening globally in the HIV field. Given that the timeframe for the Millennium Development Goals is fast approaching, it has become evident that although so much progress has been made in reducing the rate of new HIV infections globally, much more remains to be done. For this reason there is neither room nor time for complacency.
At the last International AIDS Conference held in Melbourne, Australia in July of this year, the global health community acknowledged the significant progress that has been made. The world was urged to note however that the epidemic is not over, that indeed HIV must remain central to the post-2015 sustainable agenda, and that resources must continue to be allocated to programmes across the world especially for those communities that are hard to reach and those who are marginalised. The Melbourne Conference affirmed a view expressed by the United Nations Joint Programme on AIDS that to end AIDS the global community must ensure that:
• 90% of all people should know their HIV status;
• 90% of those who need ARVs must have access;
• 90% of those on treatment must have viral suppression – this means that people must take their treatment regularly, thus ensuring that the virus is not transmitted to others.
Our presence here today is testimony to the fact that we have not become complacent. Our National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs highlights the importance of testing as a key strategic goal. Urging all South Africans to take an HIV test at least once a year, our plan also elaborates more interventions that will help move us closer to the global goals adopted at the Melbourne Conference.
The National Development Plan also affirms our commitment to strive for a generation of under-20s that is largely HIV free by 2030, an increased life expectancy for men and women and universal coverage of quality health services. All these goals are achievable if we remain committed to working together in ways that complement each other’s efforts. At the same time, whilst there is no reason for complacency, there is some good news too. Our people are living longer – as much as three years longer on average today compared to 2009. In addition, fewer children are getting infected with HIV and more of our children are reaching their 5th birthday.
We must celebrate these achievements, which experts tell us is largely the result of our collective efforts to test for HIV and put more people on treatment. At present more than 2.7 million South Africans are on treatment – which is largely funded by our government. This is both the biggest HIV treatment programme in the world and one that is mostly taxpayer funded. As we continue to file our taxes let us rest assured that our tax money is working for the nation.
The efforts and contribution by our partners and agencies are also making a significant impact in the lives of our communities. As part of the build-up campaign for today’s initiative, the national Department of Health in partnership with the provincial governments of KwaZulu-Natal and Free State, Eskom and development partners have been doing social mobilisation where comprehensive health services have been provided to the public. Medical Male Circumcision (MMC) referrals have also been done, whereby men seeking MMC services have been referred to the appropriate facilities for the procedures. Most notably, provision of services will continue after today’s event throughout the Districts of uThukela and Thabo Mofutsanyana.
This investment will prove beneficial to a wide spectrum of communities by improving their quality of life. One such investment is the Eskom-sponsored paediatric mobile clinic, which will service primary school children in the surrounding communities in KwaZulu-Natal and Free State.
However, I said that we cannot be complacent. We are enjoined by the National Development Plan as well as the guidance from the United Nations, UNAIDS, World Health Organization and others to work hard to get to zero new infections so that we can achieve a generation free of HIV/AIDS. In order to achieve these goals we must have a whole of society response. Every sector of society, indeed every citizen, has a role to play to ensure that we reach this goal.
We cannot wait for a cure for AIDS.
Today, I want us – both collectively and individually – to commit to re-igniting this HIV counselling and testing and medical male circumcision campaign. This can mean many actions and interventions, but at minimum we must commit to the following:
1. Each one of us must test for HIV and screen for TB, diabetes and hypertension at least once a year
2. Each one of us must ensure that every member of our family does the same
3. Each one of us must speak to our family members and friends about the importance of testing and screening
4. Each one of us must promote medical male circumcision
5. Each one of us must speak against stigma related to HIV and TB
6. Each one of us must speak out against violence against women and children
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me close by commending Eskom once again for continuing to champion our efforts to keep counselling and testing and screening at the centre of our HIV response. It is only through knowing one’s status that one can access the relevant health services for care, treatment and support as well as the other components of a comprehensive package that government and its partners provide.
On behalf of government, let me thank all the partners who have heeded the call to work together to address the challenges facing our country. Special thanks goes to the foot soldiers – our health providers, community care givers, the practitioners and other service providers who work tirelessly in challenging conditions sometimes to ensure that our people receive the support they need.
Finally, I want to honour the men and women who work here as well as members of the surrounding community who are here today. I applaud you for taking steps to ensure you maintain your health by using the services provided here today. Many of you work hard and long hours; you also continue to deal with various challenges that confront you on a daily basis in the workplace and in the communities where you live. Some of you are separated from your families for long periods of time or, if not, you possibly have to travel long distances to get to work. This is why bringing this important service to your door step is a huge achievement for all those who are part of this effort.
But as we have said, service cannot only be brought to us, but we too must partake in ensuring that we contribute our efforts, innovations and time to make this the great country that many past heroes and heroines sought it to be! It may be a little step stepping into the moon, but as Armstrong noted, it is a giant step for mankind! Today we are here to amply the spirit of working together instead of being bystanders hoping that government working alone would fail! Your presence here today gives inspiration that we are on the right track towards moving South Africa forward!
Phambili with working together phambili!
I thank you!
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