World AIDS Day: Know your status
Mike Waters, Shadow Minister of Health
1 December 2010
World AIDS Day allows us, as a country, to focus on what can be done and what still has to be done. It is true that we have made significant progress in addressing HIV/Aids in recent years, under Minister Aaron Motsoaledi's principled guidance of the Health Department, but the DA also believes that much more needs to be done, both in terms of treatment responses and campaigns to promote responsible behaviour.
The decade of AIDS denialism, that so significantly set back efforts to combat the disease, may now seem like something of a distant memory, such is the constructive new approach adopted first by Minister Barbara Hogan, and now by her successor, Minister Motsoaledi. One of the greatest national challenges that remains, however, is to address attitudes, and actually affect behavioural change. Deeply held beliefs, many of which probably stem from the denialism decade, still need to be addressed through a sustained, concerted national information campaign.
It is certainly encouraging to witness that recent data show a drop in new infections, and declining overall mortality rates. We need to continue to make smart policy interventions, both in treating those with the disease, and in methods of prevention. The Health Minister's target of 15 million South Africans being tested by the end of July 2011 is particularly important in this regard. This plan is certainly ambitious, but it is by no means unachievable. People who know their status can take action, and we will lend whatever assistance we can to ensuring that this programme works.
The DA cares deeply about addressing the HIV/Aids crisis in South Africa, which is why, in 2000, our previous Western Cape administration rolled out free Mother To Child Transmission (MTCT) treatment, and why in October of that year, the DA's national leadership visited Europe to investigate bringing the first batch of antiretroviral drugs into South Africa. We are also determined to continue to assist with the broader national drive to tackle this crisis – indeed, we must all, as South Africans, do so, beginning by knowing our own status and encouraging our loved ones to do the same.