These are some of the chilling statistics that demonstrate the devastating impact that HIV and AIDS is having on our nation. Not even the youngest are spared. Some studies suggest that 57% of the deaths of children under the age of five during 2007 were as a result of HIV.
This situation is aggravated by the high tuberculosis prevalence.
The co-infection rate between HIV and TB has now reached a staggering 73%. Statistics indicate that the numbers of citizens with TB number at 481 584. These statistics do not, however, fully reveal the human toll of the disease. It is necessary to go into the hospitals, clinics and hospices of our country to see the effects of HIV and AIDS on those who should be in the prime of their lives.
It is necessary to go into people’s homes to see how families struggle with the triple burden of poverty, disease and stigma. Wherever you go across the country, you hear people lament the apparent frequency with which they have to bury family members and friends. Chairperson, Honourable Members, Let me emphasise that although we have a comprehensive strategy to tackle HIV and AIDS that has been acknowledged internationally, and though we have the largest anti-retroviral programme in the world, we are not yet winning this battle. We must come to terms with this reality as South Africans.
We must accept that we need to work harder, and with renewed focus, to implement the strategy that we have developed together. We need to do more, and we need to do better, together. We need to move with urgency and purpose to confront this enormous challenge. If we are to stop the progress of this disease through our society, we will need to pursue extraordinary measures. We will need to mobilise all South Africans to take responsibility for their health and well-being and that of their partners, their families and their communities.