Keynote Address by the Honorable Executive Mayor of John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality –Ms S Mosikatsi, on behalf of the Honorable MEC for Health, Mr Mxolisi Sokatsha, on the occasion of the International Candlelight Memorial Service. Kuruman, John Taolo Gaetsewe District – Northern Cape, 20 May 2012: 09h00
All Kgosi’s present
Members of the clergy and different religious denominations
Honourable Mayor of Gasegonyana Municipality- Counsellor GT Anthony
All Councillors present
Community Members of Kuruman and surrounding areas
Representatives of strategic partners
Head of the Health Department –Ms GE Matlaopane
Senior Managers and staff of the Northern Cape Department of Health and other departments present here
Members of the media
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning and a warm welcome to all. I am indeed very honored and privileged this morning to be part of this important international Candlelight Memorial commemoration in remembrance and prayers for our beloved who died from AIDS. This day also remembers those still living with the HI Virus bringing them courage to live positively with the virus and the day put focus on all who are working tirelessly on finding a cure for HIV.
Ladies and gentlemen, the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial is the longest and largest grassroots commemoration for HIV and AIDS awareness in the world. It was first commemorated in 1983, and has since been observed internationally on the third Sunday of May every year. For the past twenty-five (25) years, the Candlelight Memorial has brought people together- individuals, organizations, sectors and communities to honor the lives of those lost to AIDS –related illnesses, give support to people living with HIV and raise social consciousness about HIV and AIDS. This event also provides opportunities for the strengthening of leadership, policy advocacy, partnerships and social mobilization in response to HIV and AIDS.
With 33 million people living with HIV today, the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial serves as an important intervention for global solidarity, breaking down barriers of stigma and discrimination, and giving hope to new generation.
Programme director, this campaign is in line with government’s Ten Point Plan to address the service delivery challenges faced by the health sector and is a direct response to Point 3 – Improving the quality of health services, Point 7- Accelerated implementation of the HIV & AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections National Strategic Plan 2007-2011 and increased focus on TB and other communicable diseases and Point 8-Mass mobilization for better health of the health sector Ten Point Plan.
The International AIDS Candlelight Memorial Commemoration is based on the following fundamental objectives:
Commemorate and celebrate the lives of those lost as a result of AIDS-related illnesses
Provide care and support to those living with and/or affected by HIV and AIDS
Promote access to prevention, treatment, care and support for People living with HIV and their families
Strengthen and sustain multi-sectoral partnerships to ensure a comprehensive, collaborative and coordinated response to HIV and AIDS
Create an enabling environment for community engagements, dialogues and consultations, particularly on matters relating to HIV and AIDS
Promote a culture of respect and inclusiveness and give voice to those infected and/or affected by HIV including women and children.
Ladies and gentlemen, the fight against HIV and AIDS cannot be the sole responsibility of one sector, department, ministry or organization. We want to use this event to mobilize the community and all relevant stakeholders to work more closely with the Department of Health and the Northern Cape Provincial Government to deal with the challenge of HIV and AIDS in the province. The fight against HIV and AIDS is the responsibility of us all.
Programme director, leadership by People Living with HIV and those affected by HIV is an important part of the AIDS Candlelight Memorial. Candlelight Memorial was started by people living with HIV “to give a face to the epidemic”. Today, coordinating organizations are diverse and include networks and organizations of people living with HIV and other key populations, affected families and communities, as well as women organizations, service organizations, academic institutions, health care facilities, faith based groups, businesses, media and many more structures.
On Friday, 12 August 2011, the Deputy President, Honourable Kgalema Motlhanthe, made an announcement that People Living with HIV whose CD4 cell count is 350 or less are eligible to access Anti Retroviral Treatment (ART) with immediate effect as a way of saving lives lost due to HIV. Universal access to HIV counseling and testing and TB screening, as an entry point for diagnosis and HIV and TB treatment, care and support is key intervention required to ensure that persons from key populations know their HIV and TB status, this to ensure early access to treatment and to reduce transmission.
To date, 213 725 people have been tested for HIV i.e. from (April 2011 to March 2012) and 16 053 are HIV positive. Thus creating a need for care and support to those individuals and their families whilst 24 495 are active patients on ART since the beginning of the program. The stigma associated with HIV and TB and fear of discrimination causes some to avoid knowing their status, disclosing their status, or accessing treatment and care.
As communities, we have to make sure that the rights of people living with HIV and AIDS are upheld and also assist and support their families to ensure correct and fair treatment of their family members. These rights are:
the right to privacy and confidentiality – nobody else needs to know about your illness if you do not want them to know.
the right to be treated with respect
the right to know what is being done to you at the clinic
the right to sick leave if you have HIV and AIDS
You have the right to information about your treatment
Ladies and gentlemen, during World TB Day on 24 March 2012 we as the ANC led government, ushered in the Northern Cape’s brand new Provincial Strategic Plan for HIV & AIDS, STI’s and TB for the period 2012 -2016. It represents a framework of strategic actions that must be undertaken by the province in order to address the growing HIV&AIDS, STIs and TB epidemic with focus on provincial specific factors and emerging issues. The plan describes how the unique challenges on HIV/AIDS, STIs and TB affecting the Northern Cape economic and social development will be addressed within the next five years. This is the first time ever that there is a strategy to deal with both diseases together, both at national and provincial level.
We have learnt important and valuable lessons from our interventions of the past 20 years. The time has come to turn the dual epidemic around, and that time is now.
Programme Director, I would like to take this opportunity to call on Mr Kenny Sebati, Provincial Coordinator of NAPWA in the Northern Cape to explain the symbolic meaning of the different colours of the candles here in front of us:
(Give over to Mr Sebati)
The Red Candle gives light and honors the memory of those who passed on because of AIDS
The White Candle symbolizes hope for a cure and a stable life of the infected
The Yellow Candle acts as a symbol of support and encouragement for those affected by HIV/AIDS
Thank you Mr Sebati.
I would like to take this opportunity to share the following prayer for the nation with all:
“Recognizing your Greatness,
We ask for Your special blessing
On all those infected and affected by AIDS,
Show Your great love to those in need as they remember loved ones who have died,
Provide strength to those caring for the sick and needy,
Hold us to build a healthy, caring and supportive Nation”
In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, let us show our support for the International Candlelight Memorial campaign by lighting Candles of Hope, that will brighten our future, and in turn motivate individuals, families and communities that through partnership, we can overcome HIV and AIDS.
I thank you.