UNAIDS Executive Director celebrates World AIDS Day in South Africa
01 December 2008
Dr Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS, is marking the 20th World AIDS Day at a ceremony in Durban, together with South Africa’s Deputy President, Ms Baleka Mbete and South African Health Minister Barbara Hogan.
The World AIDS Day programme is taking place at the SAHARA Kingsmead stadium, where national and global leaders came together to commemorate the event under the theme of “Stop HIV & AIDS: Leadership and Unity”. As one of his last official engagements as Executive Director of UNAIDS, Dr Piot joined high level representatives from national government, civil society and other partner organizations to demonstrate support and commitment to the national AIDS response.
“It is only through working together to tackle the challenges of this epidemic that we can make progress,” said Dr Piot. “Success depends on strong leadership united under a shared vision. The theme of Leadership and Unity chosen by South Africa is a powerful tool that helps bring together the many sectors and resources needed to make progress against HIV and AIDS.”
Earlier in the day, Dr Piot participated in a live television discussion hosted by the South African Broadcasting Corporation alongside the Deputy President, the Minister of Health and a civil society representative living with HIV.
The HIV epidemic in South Africa
South Africa has the largest number of HIV positive people in the world with some 5.7 million people live with HIV in the country. With nearly half a million people receiving antiretroviral treatment, South Africa also has the largest antiretroviral treatment programme in the world.
The severity of the epidemic in southern Africa underscores the need for intensified and accelerated action towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, as nine countries in the region account for 35 per cent of all HIV infections in 2007. UNAIDS has identified HIV prevention as a particular priority and is highlighting the need for countries in the region to accelerate their focus on the need to reduce HIV incidence through combination prevention. By “knowing your epidemic and knowing your response” countries can better design and implement tailored prevention programmes that are evidence informed. Combination strategies include education and raising awareness in relation to delaying early sexual debut and increasing condom use.
South Africa will come to a standstill at noon for 15 minutes on World AIDS Day in a workplace stoppage initiative by the South African National Aids Council. The aim is to strengthen and sustain unity, partnership and leadership in response to HIV. South Africans will pause to pause to consider their personal role in the AIDS response: “Have I tested for HIV? If not, why not? Have I talked to my family and children about preventing HIV? If not, why not? Do I understand about HIV medicines and how they work? How can I stop discrimination?”
Former President Nelson Mandela, President Kgalema Motlanthe, his Deputy Baleka Mbete, Health Minister Barbara Hogan, COSATU President Zwelinzima Vavi, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Dr Piot, are among those supporting the workplace stoppage HIV awareness campaign.