Address by Nelson Mandela at launch of 1st Public-Private HIV/AIDS treatment site at GF Jooste Hospital on World Aids Day

1 December 2003

World AIDS Day is an occasion for us to reflect on the condition of the millions of people around the world infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. It is a time for us to acknowledge and celebrate the efforts of those who have committed themselves to fighting this epidemic.

It is imperative to begin by acknowledging the significance of the national government’s recent decision to approve the rollout of the world’s largest Anti-Retroviral treatment plan. We must commend the government for taking this important step in providing access to life-saving treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS.

We must ensure that treatment is made available to those who need it, most especially to those who cannot afford it. Health cannot be a question of income; it is a fundamental human right. We must give people hope that it is possible to lead a healthy, fulfilling life even with HIV/AIDS.

The Tshepang Trust, a partnership between the Western Cape Metro, the South African Medical Association (SAMA), and my Foundation, gives people that hope. It is an honour to officially launch this site, at which public patients will get treatment and care from some of the best doctors in the country. We salute the private practitioners who have joined this initiative through SAMA. We cannot succeed without the active involvement of the medical practitioners.

The participation of the Western Cape Department of Health has been critical, and we hope that this public private partnership will be replicated in other provinces across the country.

In the coming months, we hope to see more partnerships like this, in which the public and private sectors come together to form a united front against HIV/AIDS.

Ultimately, it is important to remember that treatment plans cannot be separated from prevention, care, and support efforts. We hope that the widespread availability of Anti-Retroviral treatment will promote greater awareness about the disease, encourage voluntary counseling and testing for HIV among all sexually active people, and most of all, create an atmosphere of hope in which we accept people affected by the disease.

It is about time that we ensure sustainability for our country and Africa as a whole. Focus must be on treating, taking care of, and supporting affected people. However, every attempt must be made to ensure that the millions of people who are not infected with the disease remain so. Let us work together to ensure that this vision is realized.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation