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SPEECH IN PARLIAMENT by  Nokuzola Mndende, MP re HIV/AIDS 25 August 1999

Madam Speaker, honourable members of this house, HIV/AIDS is surely the most central subject in the agendas of all the various groups represented here, a concern that transcends all boundaries. This is a credit to the awareness campaign of government in partnership with the private sector and civil society. Therefore it is with great enthusiasm that I note the Minister of Health’s commitment to partnership in her briefing yesterday. I assure the house that the United Democratic Movement will unreservedly fight for this cause.

Let us now mobilise all our strength collectively and swiftly, for the time is short and the task at hand is enormous. In this spirit of partnership we must emphasize to our respective constituencies that HIV/AIDS is the responsibility of every South African. The Minister of Health’s commitment to partnership should be a clarion-call to all here, that together we may lead by example, and show all South Africans that HIV/AIDS requires collective responsibility and a collective response. This responsibility must in turn serve as an example of partnership to the whole sub-continent. Southern Africa is seen by many as the area in the world with the highest levels of HIV/AIDS infections. If the challenge is great enough to transcend party-political boundaries, then surely it must be so for national boundaries.

As a country and a sub-continent we must realize the disaster that awaits us should we become complacent. It is apt that the Minister of Health recently visited Uganda, to assess first hand the devastation, as well as the particular solutions associated with HIV/AIDS in that country.

The multi-sectoral approach can be the only approach, but the proportion and function of each component sector will surely lead to intense debating. For our part, the United Democratic Movement would like to know how the funding for combating HIV/AIDS is being spent, as well as exactly at which stage the research stands at present. Furthermore, I would like to urge us all to consider throughout our deliberations the tremendous impact that HIV/AIDS has on the women of South Africa. It is of the utmost importance that we ensure the safety of our women and our mothers, since we have a special responsibility to protect them in a society that is still rife with gender discrimination and abuse. Debates, on issues like these, are necessary and in the spirit of consultation, but let us not, in the heat of debate, lose sight of our objective and the little time we have.

The Minister referred yesterday in her briefing to a National 5 year strategic plan that has been drafted by the Director of the HIV/AIDS program. The United Democratic Movement is anxious to discuss and assist in enacting this strategy urgently.

Let us be driven by a need for urgency in the knowledge that soon the problem will escalate beyond recovery. This challenge offers us the opportunity to show to the world our ability to solve even the most complex of problems. If not for any other reason, then let us persevere out of National Pride, so that our children may stand tall one day in the memory of our success. Failure cannot be an option.

I thank you.

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