Deputy President David Mabuza has reaffirmed that South Africa remains committed to protecting the human rights of people with HIV and other key and vulnerable populations.
Mabuza said this is key to enabling access to services and fighting stigma and discrimination.
"In order for the world to succeed in ending AIDS by 2030, we need to recognise and protect the rights of all key and vulnerable populations by involving people living with HIV and placing communities at the centre of our response," Mabuza said.
Mabuza was speaking at the United Nations High Level Meeting on HIV and AIDS on Tuesday.
The Deputy President, who is the chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) is leading the South African delegation at the high level meeting held virtually from 8 to 11 June 2021.
In his address, Mabuza said women and girls continue to be disproportionately affected by the burden of HIV and AIDS, especially adolescent girls and young women aged between 15 and 24.
"This calls on us to address inequalities that hinder progress towards ending AIDS, which in South Africa accounts for 20% of the total global infections," Mabuza said.
He said South Africa continues to advance a multi-sectoral response to AIDS that is grounded in human rights principles and equal access.
"This includes the scaling up of economic empowerment of young women and girls, ensuring that they have access to sexual and reproductive health services, as well as comprehensive sexuality education that is free of stigma and discrimination," the Deputy President said.
Despite the prevailing challenges, Mabuza said the country has made significant strides in responding to the epidemic, with five million people on antiretroviral therapy, which is the largest treatment programme in the world.
He, however, noted that the progress towards reducing new HIV infections has been insufficient, as "we have not met the 2020 targets".
"This has also been compounded by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic," Mabuza said.
HIV/TB catch-up plans
Government has since, through the South African National AIDS Council, prioritised fast-tracking the development and implementation of the HIV/TB catch-up plans in each of the country's provinces.
"These efforts are aimed at preventing new HIV infections, with a focus on populations most affected. In this regard, a combination of prevention methods is significant to our national response towards ending AIDS.
"We also continue to ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic does not reverse the achievements we have made thus far in responding to the HIV/AIDS and TB epidemics," the Deputy President said.
Sustainable funding for health systems
Mabuza called on the global community to fully fund the AIDS response, in line with the principle of Shared Responsibility and Global Solidarity.
He emphasised that developing countries require sustainable funding for strengthening health systems, pandemic preparedness and response, as well as Recovery Plans necessitated by COVID-19 setbacks.
"Resource allocation should prioritise critical areas such as the combination of prevention methods, community-led implementation, multi-sectoral coordination and promotion of human rights.
"We continue to call for TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) flexibilities to enable local production of medical commodities, and encourage technology-sharing mechanisms to meet public health objectives.
"We reaffirm our commitment to greater unity of the African continent, and we support the Common African Position developed under the leadership of the African Union.
"We, therefore, support the 2021 Political Declaration towards ending AIDS, and we embrace the new targets and other commitments in the declaration," Mabuza said.