Address by Deputy President David Mabuza Chairperson of the South African National Aids Council, on the occasion of the launch of the SANAC Private Sector Forum
Ministers and Deputy Ministers
MEC for Health in Gauteng, Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi
CEOs and all members of the SANAC Private Sector Forum
Chairperson of the SANAC Civil Society Forum, Ms Steve Letsike
Our development partners
Ladies and Gentlemen
This is a very significant day in the history of the South African National Aaids Council, as we are gathered together to launch the Private Sector Forum of SANAC. It is nearly two decades since the establishment of SANAC by Cabinet in 2002 as a multi-sector Council consisting of government, civil society, labour and the private sector, with the mandate of advising government on matters relating to HIV, TB and STIs.
While the South African Business Coalition on Health and AIDS has been playing an active role within SANAC, it is not representative of the broader private sector in the country. The establishment of the Private Sector Forum, therefore, creates an opportunity for the private sector to be fully represented on all SANAC structures, thus ensuring the full constitution of SANAC as envisaged when it was established nineteen years ago. This will further invigorate and enhance co-ordination of the private sector response to HIV, TB and STIs.
With the private sector constituting about 70 percent of the South African economy, it is a key stakeholder in the socio-economic life of our society. The private sector together with government, civil society and labour, plays an important role in the developmental agenda of our country, including through structures such as NEDLAC.
The role of the private sector is also evident in addressing broader societal challenges. As government, we recognise the inequalities that still hinder us from achieving our goals, and believe that the private sector is best placed to contribute with resources at its disposal, in our forward march in the struggle to end AIDS.
For instance, the sector supports various initiatives and communities through corporate social investments, such as education and in strengthening our health system.
Recently, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we acknowledge the prominent role that the sector is playing in responding to this unprecedented challenge, through the Solidarity Fund and other initiatives.
We do acknowledge that even as the private sector was not fully represented in SANAC structures, the sector has been actively implementing various programmes which form part of the country’s response to the HIV, TB and STIs epidemics.
Previously, the sector responded by addressing the impact of the epidemics in the world of work. Over time, HIV and AIDS programmes have been mainstreamed and integrated into on-going corporate health and wellness programmes.
We are encouraged by the fact that many companies are implementing programmes that are aimed at providing health services, not only to their employees but also to community members within the areas of their operations.
Therefore, the establishment of the Private Sector Forum, enhances the role of private sector in the broader work on population health. It further creates an enabling environment for the private sector to make a comprehensive contribution towards our goals of ending AIDS.
We also welcome the partnership between business and government to improve access to health services through digital platforms that focus on young people aged 10-24 years. As part of this on-going partnership, the TBHealthCheck mobile application used for TB self-screening, was launched in February this year. This is based on the success of the COVID-19 HealthCheck, which is currently used by almost 2 million South Africans to self-assess their COVID-19 risk.
The Masoyise Health Programme implemented since 2015 by the Minerals Council of South Africa, in collaboration with other stakeholders including government, labour and development partners, is one case in point.
Its goal of reducing the impact of TB, HIV, occupational lung diseases and non-communicable diseases, as occupational health threats in the mining sector, advances the National Strategic Plan on HIV, TB and STIs as well as the Sustainable Development Goals, among others.
Another example is the Anglo-American initiative, which leverages partnerships to support and strengthen community health systems towards advancing Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which focuses on health.
We know that there are many more initiatives undertaken by the private sector, and we encourage the sector to carry on implementing these and continue to find more innovative ways of responding to the health challenges in our communities.
Therefore, as SANAC we recognise the valuable contribution that the Private Sector Forum can play in transcending inequalities in our health care system and in access to treatment.
We know that gender-based violence is one of the contributory factors to the spread of HIV. In the recent years, we have witnessed an increase in incidents of violence perpetrated against women, children and the LGBTQI community.
There can be no doubt that gender-based violence also impacts negatively on the workplace, resulting in high rates of absenteeism, and low productivity. The psycho-social effects of gender-based violence on the victims may sometimes result in lost economic opportunities and job losses.
This is in addition to the challenge of gender dimensions of HIV, which also should be recognised in the workplace. It has been established that women are more likely to become infected and more often adversely affected by HIV than men, for biological, socio-cultural and economic reasons. Therefore, our HIV programmes must respond to the circumstances and needs of men and women in a manner that is appropriate to each group.
We commend those companies that have heeded to the call by government to collaborate in addressing this scourge, including through the establishment of the Private Sector Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Response Fund. This fund is essential in the implementation of the National Strategic Plan on Gender-based Violence and Femicide, as well as the broader country response to this challenge.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Although we have made significant progress as a country in the fight against HIV, TB and STIs, we know that a great deal of effort is still required towards ending these epidemics.
For example, we have surpassed UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets in terms of percentage of people who know their HIV status. However, we still need to ensure that more people are enrolled on treatment, and are retained in care so that they become virally suppressed. In that way, we will significantly reduce the chances of the virus being passed on. This makes treatment an important prevention method at our disposal.
In addition to treatment, we need to work together as SANAC sectors to ramp up our prevention efforts to reduce the rate of new HIV infections. According to the Mid Term Review of our current National Strategic Plan, infection rate in our country remains high, and this is a cause for concern.
We know that young people are more at risk of contracting HIV, and the private sector faces a serious threat in terms of new recruits into the work environment. Therefore, we call upon the private sector to intervene in addressing infections among this age group, more especially as they are at the start of their careers.
If implemented strategically, workplace prevention programmes can be a useful and cost-effective strategy to address HIV among employees. Prevention programmes require strong leadership, support, and participation from all levels of the organisation, from senior management to workers on the shop-floor.
In addition to HIV, we also encourage companies to pay particular focus on TB and non-communicable diseases that are silently impacting on the economically active population.
As the country, we are also facing a challenge of people who are sick with TB, but have not been diagnosed and therefore are not on treatment. These are the missing TB patients that all sectors need to put extra efforts to find in order to prevent further spread of this curable disease.
Let us remember that in all our efforts of addressing the challenges of HIV and TB, we must uphold the human rights of people infected and affected by these epidemics, and never stigmatise and discriminate against them. It is also important to remember that people with HIV are often healthy and are able to work productively for many years.
While South Africa and the global community were already lagging behind in terms of achieving the 2020 targets for HIV and TB, this situation has further been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted health service provision.
In an effort to get us back on track towards attaining both our national and global targets, we have resolved to extend the term of the current National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs and fast-track the implementation of catch-up plans. We are pleased that the private sector will be part of this important process and together as SANAC sectors, we will find solutions that will take us forward as a country.
We commend the private sector for embarking on this journey of organising themselves into the formal structure that will coordinate their participation within SANAC.
We call upon the Private Sector Forum to rally all members of the private sector to be more co-ordinated in their response to HIV, TB, and non-communicable diseases. We further call on the Forum to facilitate financial contributions by various companies to support the country’s response to these epidemics.
As we close, we congratulate and welcome all members of the SANAC Private Sector Forum to the SANAC family.
I thank you!