President Zuma and UNAIDS Executive Director call for mass prevention movement at World AIDS Day commemoration in Pretoria

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President Zuma and UNAIDS Executive Director call for mass prevention movement at World AIDS Day commemoration in Pretoria

01 December 2009


UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé together with President Jacob Zuma at the national commemoration in Pretoria
Credit: UNAIDS/Melanie Hamman

To mark World AIDS Day, UNAIDS Executive Director Mr Michel Sidibé joined President Jacob Zuma and South Africans in their national commemoration in Pretoria where he called for the forging of a mass prevention movement.

Mr Sidibé was in the company of the President of the Republic of South Africa Mr Jacob Zuma and Minster of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi at the Tshwane Events Centre in Pretoria for an event attended by thousands of participants. At the event, President Zuma made a commitment to take an HIV test, personifying the theme of the South African celebrations–I am Responsible. 

Mr Sidibé, in his World AIDS Day address referred to South African President Mr Zuma’s landmark speech in October to the National Council of Provinces in Parliament. That speech, praised by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, marked a fundamental break from the past outlining bold and ambitious goals to turn the tide on AIDS epidemic.  

I am here today to stand in solidarity with your commitment and vision—you are giving hope to so many millions who have been waiting for South Africa to join the front line in the global response.

Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director.

“I am here today to stand in solidarity with your commitment and vision—you are giving hope to so many millions who have been waiting for South Africa to join the front line in the global response,” said Mr Sidibé.

In South Africa an estimated 5.7 million were people living with HIV in 2007; the world’s largest population of people living with HIV. Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region most heavily affected by HIV worldwide, accounting for over two thirds of all people living with HIV and for nearly three quarters of AIDS-related deaths in 2008.

Our message is simple, we have to stop the spread of HIV. We must reduce the rate of new infections. Prevention is our most powerful weapon against the epidemic.

President Jacob Zuma of South Africa

“Our message is simple,” President Zuma said, “we have to stop the spread of HIV. We must reduce the rate of new infections. Prevention is our most powerful weapon against the epidemic.”

President Zuma announced the provision of HIV treatment to all children under one year of age if they test positive.

He also spoke of South Africa’s goal of universal voluntary HIV testing: “To take our response a step forward, we are launching a massive campaign to mobilise all South Africans to get tested for HIV. Every South African should know his or her HIV status.”

South Africa’s renewal of commitment for an evidence-informed AIDS response, calling its citizens to know their status, reduce risk and seek treatment, is pivotal to the success of the AIDS response regionally, on the African continent, and beyond.


(from left) H.E. Mr. Lennarth Hjelmåker, Sweden's special Ambassador on AIDS; UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé; Swedish Minister of International Development & Cooperation, Ms. Gunilla Carlsson; Pretoria, 1 December 2009.
Credit: Embassy of Sweden, Pretoria, South Africa

There is hope for universal access; in 2008, 44% of adults and children in the region in need of antiretroviral therapy had access to treatment. Five years earlier, the regional treatment coverage was only 2%. 

However, Mr Sidibé noted, “with 7400 new infections across the world every day, to change the trajectory of the epidemic there is need to forge a mass prevention revolution movement.”

Also speaking at the event, was Prudence Mabele who has been living openly with HIV since 1992. “As a person living with HIV I welcome the leadership of the Government in the new fight against HIV,” Ms Mabele said, imploring the South African people “Let us all know our own status so we can all live positive.”
Ms Mabele featured on the cover of UNAIDS Outlook 2010

Earlier in the day, Mr Sidibé attended a European Union (EU) World AIDS Day commemoration hosted by the Ambassador of Sweden Mr Peter Tejler, local representative of the Swedish EU Presidency at the Swedish Embassy in Pretoria.

During this event the UNAIDS head stressed the importance of an AIDS response based in Human Rights, noting that there is an urgent need to refocus on HIV prevention.

“Universal obstacles to human rights are getting in the way of universal access,” said Mr Sidibé. 

Ms Gunilla Carlsson, Swedish Minister of International Development Cooperation called for increased gender equality in the AIDS response, “Women and girl’s rights must be secured including the right to sexual and reproductive health. All forms of gender based violence must come to an end.”

Mr Mark Heywood, deputy chair of the South African National AIDS Council,and Judge Edwin Cameron, Constitutional Court of South Africa were also in attendance.