The 21st International AIDS Conference kicks off in Durban
18 July 2016
Hundreds of delegates from around the world are gathering at Durban’s International Convention Centre this morning for the International Aids Conference, with many here hoping the gathering will usher in a fresh approach in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Over 12 000 delegates from 180 countries across the globe are expected to attend the conference organised by the International Aids society. The theme of this year’s gathering is “access, equity, rights now”.
South African President Jacob Zuma has welcomed all international delegates who will be attending Conference.
“The President said South Africa is also truly pleased to host the conference during this period when the country has been making progress in its response to the disease since the policy turnaround in 2009,” the Presidency said.
The quality of life of people living with HIV has improved dramatically since the policy turnaround in 2009.
“HIV positive people 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,” the Presidency said.
Recently, government launched Phila, a massive HIV prevention campaign targeted primarily at young women and girls. The Presidency said focusing on HIV prevention is important for the country as it is working towards the goal of an HIV-free generation.
The President has also noted with appreciation, the positive and constructive working relationship and cooperation that exists between local stakeholders in the fight against AIDS, under the auspices of South African National AIDS Council (SANAC).
"This patriotic collaboration has contributed immensely to the progress that the country has scored, and also holds us in good stead as we continue waging the battle against HIV, AIDS and TB,'' President Zuma said.
He has also extended his gratitude to the United Nations AIDS programme (UNAIDS) for the support provided to South Africa in this battle.
This support has contributed to the progress that the country has made, the Presidency said.
The South African delegation, under the leadership of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, will share lessons from the progress made, and also learn from other delegations on what they could be doing better.
The Deputy President, who is also the Chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) will officially open the conference in Durban today.
"More importantly, the conference begins on Nelson Mandela Day. It 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. We wish local and international delegates a successful AIDS 2016 Conference,'' President Zuma said.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who heads the government’s HIV/AIDS programme, has said the return of the conference to South Africa was a sign of how far South Africa had come in the 16 years since the event was last held in the country.
South Africa is expected to use the gathering to showcase its intervention in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The country has made inroads against the disease and the number of new HIV infections in South Africa has dropped from more than 500 000 in 2004 to an estimated 330 000 in 2013.
The rate of babies being born with HIV has decreased significantly from 8% in 2008 to 2.6% in 2013. The number of children 0‒14 years living with HIV and on antiretroviral treatment has increased from only 42 000 in 2009 to 166 000 in 2014. Over three million of the six million estimated people who are living with HIV is in South Africa and are receiving treatment.
Delegates at the Durban conference are expected to call for a renewed commitment to invest in research and development that could lead to new options for a vaccine and functional cure for HIV.
The conference ends on Friday.