UN Deputy Secretary-General’s remarks at the World AIDS Day High-Level event on Adolescent Girls and Young Women with the Global Fund and the Government of South Africa

By | 3 December 2018

Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, 2nd December 2018

I congratulate and thank the Deputy President for his excellent leadership as Chair of South Africa’s National AIDS Council. With his commitment, AIDS, health and broader social development will remain high on South Africa’s political agenda, setting an example to the region and the world.

Today, World AIDS Day, is an opportunity to reflect on the great progress that has been made, both here in South Africa and around the world but also to intensify our efforts towards ending this for good.

I commend South Africa for taking decisive steps to bring an end to the epidemic. First and foremost, this has been through systematically implementing the 90-90-90 strategy.

By 2020, 90 percent of people living with HIV should know their HIV status; 90 percent of those diagnosed with HIV infection should be receiving antiretroviral therapy; and 90 percent of those receiving antiretroviral therapy should have viral suppression.

These targets are ambitious. Once, they were unthinkable. Now, they are within reach.

In 2017, 9.4 million people were simply unaware that they are living with a potentially deadly, but treatable, disease and 19.4 million people living with HIV who do not have a suppressed viral load. Knowledge is power. Knowing your HIV status has many advantages. It is an essential entry point to HIV treatment, prevention, care and support services.

I commend South Africa for successfully launching its own National Screening and Testing campaign for HIV, TB and selected Non-Communicable Diseases.

Knowing your HIV status is essential to tackling this epidemic. The earlier you know, the longer you live. It really is that simple.  This is something our UNAIDS programme is also supporting governments to achieve.

South Africa has succeeded in nearly halving new HIV infections between 2010 and 2016. Now the aim is to reduce them by a further two-thirds, from 270 000 to less than 90,000, by 2020.

The implementation of National Health Insurance to achieve universal coverage is another hugely ambitious step that will bring benefits far beyond the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. 

Excellencies, Dear friends,

The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals are our boldest agenda for humanity. The 17 Goals, not only envision the elimination of extreme poverty and hunger but aim for good health and wellbeing for all, decent work, equality and justice, on a healthy planet.

The third Sustainable Development Goal is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. SDG3 has a specific reference to ending AIDS by 2030.

AIDS has important links with many of the other goals. It can push families into poverty – the subject of SDG 1. Its spread is fueled by gender inequality; which SDG 5 aims to end. Earlier today, I attended a meeting with women leaders across a broad spectrum looking at how to end discriminations in all forms including from the stigma of HIV/AIDS and recognizing that gender equality is imperative to overall development, peace, prosperity and to build a safer, more just future for all.

People who are affected by AIDS and HIV need access to justice, which is spelt out in SDG 16. And tackling AIDS requires partnerships between stakeholders from government to civil society to the private sector and development partners, as called for in SDG 17.

So we will not be doing everything possible to combat this epidemic unless we implement the entire 2030 Agenda. And conversely, tackling HIV/AIDS is a way to make progress in many areas of this agenda simultaneously.

For example, recent data shows that new HIV infection rates among adolescent girls and young women are three times as high as those of young men in South Africa. This trend is seen across Sub-Saharan Africa. Globally, over 1,000 adolescent girls and young women are infected with HIV every day.

We know the root causes of this lie in gender inequalities, harmful practices, sexual violence and discrimination against women and girls.

So to tackle AIDS, we need to tackle these inequalities and obstacles. We need to provide opportunities for young women; we need to listen to them and amplify their voices. We need to end female genital mutilation, child marriage, and all the other forms of violence and abuse that women and girls suffer.

That’s the thinking behind South Africa’s “She Conquers” programme that aims to improve the lives of adolescent girls and young women in a holistic way, by tackling HIV, gender-based violence and teenage pregnancy, and providing support for education and job opportunities.

I hope we will see more such programmes that take on issues across sectors and make progress on several fronts simultaneously. 

A rising tide lifts all boats. I see that tide here in South Africa and across the African continent today.

The Global Fund has long understood that the key to reaching all those at risk lies in a multi-sectoral response. It has broken new ground in its efforts to end fragmentation and duplication and build coordination.

Its investments in surveillance, diagnostics and in managing the supply of drugs and treatments to prevent and respond to AIDS, TB and malaria are the backbone of sustainable health systems that benefit every member of society.

We must build upon these investments to provide better and more integrated service delivery and achieve universal health coverage. 



Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

As we mark 100 years since the birth of former President Mandela, we contemplate his life, values and work. Madiba’s vision for his people included improving public health and promoting the right to healthcare for all.

It is extremely fitting that we are celebrating his Centennial by looking at how we can achieve the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs for South Africa, the African continent and the entire global community.

I thank the Government of South Africa and the Global Fund for hosting this high-level event.

I also thank them and all partners for investing in programmes to support adolescent girls and young women, saving millions of lives.

Thank you.


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