I am deeply honoured to address this important event that seeks to contribute to the ongoing fight against HIV and AIDS in our country.
In April last year, President Zuma launched a national HIV Counselling and Testing Campaign with the aim of having at least 15
million people tested for HIV by June this year.
Why did we embark on this campaign? HIV and AIDS have scarred the social landscape of our country and remains a major threat facing our nation.
HIV is also a major contributor to maternal, infant and child mortality. This means that we have no choice but to take the fight against this epidemic very, very seriously.
The HIV Counselling and Testing Campaign aims to encourage all the people to know their HIV status so that they can take appropriate steps to seek help when necessary.
We should remember that AIDS is just a disease and therefore should not carry any stigma.
What is the significance for us today? If each of us takes responsibility for our status starting today, we shall all be contributing to the development of this country as well as the happiness and wellbeing of our families and our communities.
It’s up to each one of us to act in ways that help to defeat the scourge of HIV and AIDS as well as TB.
I am told by the Department of Health that since the start of the campaign over 8 million people have received counselling and more than 7 million went on to take the HIV test.
If it were not for this campaign millions of South Africans would probably not have known their status.
These figures show that people are interested to know their status provided that services are provided in a way that is non-threatening and convenient.
In this context we therefore congratulate management and workers of Eskom, Murray and Roberts as well as their suppliers for making today possible.
However, Eskom has agreed to a bigger task – that of making HIV counselling and testing available at all their power stations and offices.
I wish to challenge all those in the building industry and indeed all sectors of industry to make facilities for HIV counselling and testing and screening for TB available to all workers and their dependants.
In this way we can collectively ensure that we protect the health and welfare of our employees and their dependants.
As we all know the wealth of a business lies in its workforce. Government too has and will continue to do its share, working together with the private sector.
Why did we choose to come to Medupi today?
This power station must become a symbol of growth and development.
We need growth and development of the type that will help us to reduce inequities in society; we need growth and development that strengthens the economy so that we can compete with the rest of the world; we need growth and development that leads to healthy and happy citizens.
This event, therefore, symbolises what is possible in our country.
It is possible for government, the private sector, organised labour, civil society and traditional leaders, to work together in common purpose to fight diseases, most particularly HIV and AIDS and TB but also other diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.
I am informed that during the next three days more than 3000 workers at this site will be offered HIV counselling and testing as well as screening for TB, high blood pressure and diabetes.
This represents government’s view that we should not only treat people when they get sick but that we should invest in prevention and health promotion as well.
It also represents government’s view that we should not wait for people to come to health facilities for care and treatment but that we should come to where the people are – at construction sites such as this, universities, schools, farms, villages and homes.
Recently, working with the private sector, government launched an HIV Counselling and Testing Campaign that targets universities and other institutions of higher learning.
The campaign has seen large numbers of young people availing themselves for counselling and testing at their own institutions.
The South African National AIDS Council and the Department of Health, working with a number of government departments, are currently planning to take the HIV Counselling and Testing campaign to secondary schools, farms and villages.
I would request that the private sector and organised labour together with community organisations and community leaders get involved in this campaign so that every village and town is touched by this campaign.
It is our collective responsibility to prevent new infections of HIV, AIDS and TB so that the next generation of South Africans is born without these diseases.
An HIV free generation will contribute immeasurably to a better South Africa and a better world.
The Minister of Health tells me that we can prevent the transmission of the virus and that we can successfully treat patients even though at present there is no cure for AIDS.
This is a behavioural disease and therefore can be prevented through changing our behaviour by consistent use of male and female condoms; medical male circumcision; preventing mother to child transmission and having one sexual partner.
Once again, let us remember that there is no cure for HIV and AIDS. This makes prevention of HIV transmission very important.
This means that we need to take individual and collective responsibility as workers, as parents, as employers and as government. I do hope that this event will illustrate that this is possible!
Once again, let me commend management and workers at Medupi Power Station for taking this bold step and further call on all the employers to emulate this worthy initiative so that together we join forces to create a healthy nation.
Let us take this message to our homes, villages, and religious institutions to ensure that all our people are tested and screened.
I am responsible; we are responsible; South Africa takes responsibility!
I thank you!!!