Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is the Chairperson of the South African National Aids Council, (Sanac), will officially open the conference on Monday evening "and will officiate at the conference on behalf of government and the partnership against Aids as a whole in the country."
The President welcomed United Nations Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki Moon and SADC Heads of State and Government to the conference, as well as "leaders in the entertainment, business, labour and other fields" who are helping in the fight against HIV and Aids.
President Zuma noted that 20 million people had been tested since government ramped up HIV testing in 2009.
He also announced the following measures that have been or will be implemented:-
• All children under one year of age will get treatment if they test positive in order to reduce infant mortality over time. Indeed the rate of mother to child transmission of the virus has been drastically reduced.
• All patients with both TB and HIV will get treatment with anti-retrovirals if their CD4 count is 350 or less. The treatment then was available when the CD4 count was less than 200.
• He announced that TB and HIV/Aids would be treated under one roof. The purpose was to address early reported deaths arising from undetected TB infection among those who are infected with HIV. This step was taken because approximately 1% of our population had TB and that the co-infection between TB and HIV was 73%.
• All pregnant HIV positive women with a CD4 count of 350 or with symptoms regardless of CD4 count would have access to treatment. At that time, HIV positive pregnant women were eligible for treatment if their CD4 count was less than 200.
• All other pregnant women not falling into this category, but who are HIV positive, would be put on treatment at fourteen weeks of pregnancy to protect the baby. In the past this was only started during the last term of pregnancy.
The President stated that " HIV positive persons are living longer and lead healthier lives, thanks to wider access to treatment. South Africa has significantly reduced the mother-to-child transmission of HIV, thus ensuring healthier babies." Government has also "launched Phila, a massive HIV prevention campaign targeted primarily at young women and girls."
The President thanked Sanac for its leadership in the fight against HIV/Aids and "extended his gratitude to the United Nations AIDS programme, UNAIDS, for the support provided to South Africa in this crucial battle."
President Zuma further noted that by launching on Mandela Day, the conference "provides an opportunity to pay tribute to Madiba for the role he played in advancing the fight against AIDS and promoting care and support for those infected and affected."