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Address by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 8th Southern African Aids Conference

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Programme Director, Ms. Lebo Ramafoko,
Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Mr Willies Mchunu,
Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi,
MEC for Health, Dr Sibongiseni Dlomo,
Representatives of the development community,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
We gather here on the eve of June 16, a day which changed the course of South African history.
 
On June 16 1976, the youth of this country resolved to take a stand against the tyranny of racial domination and social injustice.
 
Today, the determination, courage, selflessness and tireless activism that defined the generation of 1976 lives on.
 
It lives on in the many civil society activists who refuse to submit to injustice, inequality, ignorance and disease.
 
It lives on among all the HIV activists the world over, who continue to fight tirelessly to expand access to life-saving treatment for those living with HIV, those who are infected with TB and those affected by many other diseases.
The spirit of June 1976 lives on among all of you who have come to this Conference to make sure that our country continues to build on the progress we have made to date.
 
Today, we salute all the activists of this struggle for their unyielding commitment to the cause of freedom, justice and health for all.
 
Since the dawn of our democracy, we have been on a quest to respond to the myriad social, economic, political and cultural problems that confront our people.
 
The National  Development Plan is now the road map for building a non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.
 
Under the NDP, we will continue to transform the structure of our economy, expand initiatives which will ensure that we create more jobs and build a more equitable and cohesive society.
 
These initiatives will succeed only if we continue to work together with all our social partners.
 
Your contribution to the implementation of the National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs is an example of a strong and successful social compact.
 
The new NSP 2017-2022, equips us to strengthen our interventions to continue driving down new HIV and TB infections. While we acknowledge the huge gains we have made, we remain alive and anxious about the persistently high levels of new infection among young girls and women.
 
Initiatives such as the She Conquers campaign, will enable us to ensure that adolescent girls and young women remain HIV-free. The campaign addresses gender-based violence, teenage pregnancies and links young people to economic opportunities.
 
I would like to thank all the partners who are supporting this campaign and urge all of you to encourage the private sector and all other sectors to support this national effort.
 
What we must all continue to focus on is prevention. Prevention is the most critical pillar of all our endeavours. 
 
Our response will leave no one behind. The NSP enjoins us to respond to the needs of marginalised populations. We continue to expand this work; the Premier launched the LGBTI plan at this Conference last night and as government, we welcome this new plan and commit to support its implementation.
 
During this youth month, I want to urge all young people to take up the Prevention Revolution.
  
This generation of South African youth, like those of 1976, will make history.
 
They will end the spread of a disease that often stands between them and their dreams, between them and their future, between them and their loved ones.
 
Today’s youth have a strong and powerful ally.
 
They inhabit an interconnected global village.
 
They are able to appropriate social media to promote prevention and healthy lifestyles.
 
They can use WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter to remind their sexually active friends to always practice safe sex.
 
With their two thumbs they can promote awareness and tolerance.
 
They can empower, support and heal.
 
The Long Walk to Prevention calls  for the energy, vibrancy and infinite resourcefulness of young people. They must lead the Prevention Revolution because prevention is the pillar of our response.
 
We therefore welcome the Declaration of the Higher Education AIDS National Youth Conference.
 
This Declaration tells us the young people of South Africa care deeply about our collective future and are actively seeking a better life for all of us.
 
This Declaration tells us young people are not walking away from the challenges they face.
 
They are confronting these challenges with passion, focus and, above all, solutions of their own.
 
We call on the young people who attended the conference to take the message to other young people in their households, communities and institutions of learning.
 
We applaud the youth for being outspoken and innovative.
 
We applaud the youth for holding political leadership to account.
  
Ladies and Gentlemen,
  
It was former President Nelson Mandela who said:
 
“Let us remind ourselves that our work is far from complete. Where there is poverty and sickness, including AIDS, where human beings are being oppressed, there is more work to be done. Our work is for freedom for all…”
 
We will not succeed to expand the frontiers of freedom and human fulfilment if we do not involve and prioritise young people.
 
Our freedom will remain incomplete if we continue to discriminate against vulnerable populations like men who have sex with men, sex workers, members of the LGBTI community and those who inject drugs.
 
For our freedom to thrive and flourish, we must collectively build public institutions that protect the dignity of all and prevent stigmatisation and social exclusion.
 
We share the outrage and anger of millions of South Africans about the epidemic of gender based violence.
 
Society correctly views this conduct as inexcusable and reprehensible.
 
We must stand together to say it is unacceptable for a man to raise a hand to strike a women.
 
All men must say: “Not in my name.”
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I commend all delegates for their commitment to this hard task, we have a plan, we have work to do.
 
Let us continue on this long walk to prevention. We cannot afford to tire.
 
We cannot stop.
 
We owe it to our children, to those who fought for the liberation of our country, to the young people who died in 1976, and to our country.
 
I thank you.