SA Deputy President opens International AIDS conference

Cape Town, South Africa (PANA) – South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe on Saturday night noted that AIDS-related deaths in Eastern and Southern Africa continue to decline, as do the annual number of new HIV infections and that more people than ever are receiving life-saving anti-retroviral therapy.

Opening the 17th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA), which is being hosted in Cape Town, Motlantha noted that many countries had reached the "tipping point" where the number of people starting anti-retroviral therapy exceeded the rate of new infections.

“Countries across the continent have scaled-up and sustained their responses despite financial hardship. Today, the challenges that confront us are different but no less daunting.

"What was once a narrative of despair, stigma and death is now changing into one of hope, the preservation of life, dignity and the overall wellness of all human beings,” he said.

Motlanthe said these improvements are not only helping save lives but are also freeing-up resources to develop new insights on the diagnosis and peculiar behaviour of the HIV and the human body's response to it.

“This progress is also helping us with the emergence of innovations and other avenues for improving the general responsiveness of the global health.

"Our success thus far should not lull us into complacency. If anything, the provisioning of treatment is an encouraging step forward, which must spur us on to achieve the universal target of zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths,” he said.

ICASA, as the largest AIDS conference in Africa, attracts the widest cross-section of political leaders, advocacy groups, health-care workers, donors and researchers in the global HIV community.

The theme for the 16th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa convened in Addis Ababa in 2011, was: "Own, Scale-up, Sustain".

The theme of this year's conference - "Now More Than Ever: Targeting Zero" - is evidence of the progress that has been made across Africa in scaling up treatment and redoubling efforts to prevent new infections since then.
-0- PANA CU/MA 8Dec2013

08 december 2013 09:10:03

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