Cabinet welcomes progress to strengthen partnerships against AIDS

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By Nozipho Dlamini, tel: (012) 312-2214

Cabinet has welcomed a progress report on the initiative led by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka to revive and strengthen the Partnership Against HIV and AIDS.

It was against this background that the Deputy President met with the lobby groups - the National Association of People Living with HIV and AIDS (NAPWA) and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) recently.

This to discuss the challenges the country faces in the fight against the pandemic and other opportunistic diseases such as tuberculosis (TB).

This followed government?s renewed resolve to take concrete steps to strengthen joint action and cooperation among the various stakeholders to fight the pandemic.

Crucial among all is the strengthening of the SA National AIDS Council (SANAC) to play a major role in pulling all the stakeholders together.

"Cabinet welcomed the fact that significant progress was made in this regard as parties agreed that the only way we can defeat the pandemic is through cooperation,' said Mr Maseko, following Cabinet?s meeting in Cape Town on Wednesday.

Cabinet further resolved that in addition to dealing with the pandemic, stakeholders should not overlook other health challenges facing the country such as TB that has seen the development of the extremely difficult to treat strain, in recent months.

In this regard, the Department of Health will engage with other role-players to coordinate other efforts to deal with the latest strain of drug resistant TB.

Cabinet also approved the composition of the InterMinisterial Committee (IMC) on HIV and AIDS, also chaired by Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka.

Other members include ministers of Health, Social Development, Agriculture and Land Affairs, Education, Provincial and Local Government, the Presidency; Public Service and Administration, Labour, Arts and Culture, Transport, Correctional Services, Minerals and Energy, Foreign Affairs, Public Works and Government Communications.

The committee will be supported by a technical committee of Directors-General of the respective departments.

On other matters, Mr Maseko said Cabinet noted with concern the incidents of violence in schools which have led to injury and death of at least three learners around the country in less than two months.

It expressed its full support for the steps announced by the Council of Education Ministers to address violence in schools.

These measures include the encouragement of schools to set up safety committees, increased security in schools, the convening of a national consultative forum on school safety, and the formulation of guidelines on random drug testing within constitutional parameters.

In this regard, parents and communities were urged to work with educators and school governing bodies to ensure that the incidents of violence were addressed, including the causes and circumstances that lead to violence as a solution to the problem.

"These incidents, coupled with the violent crimes that are being committed by bloodthirsty criminals in our streets, are totally unacceptable and highlight the need for a collective effort by all South Africans to declare war on crime,' Mr Maseko said.

Regarding violent crimes, Cabinet said the tragic killing of an infant during an armed robbery in Johannesburg early this month was a clear indication that these criminals did not value life.

"The meeting expressed its condolences with families who have lost their loved ones at the hands of these criminals.

"However, the best tribute we can pay to those who have lost their lives, and their loved ones, is to intensify the fight against crime. Our police services are working with communities and schools to ensure that our schools become safer,' he said.

Cabinet also noted that fighting crime was the primary responsibility of the police and that citizens should support their efforts.

"The police cannot win this war alone. Participation in and strengthening of the Community Police Forum (CPFs) must become second nature to all of us,' said Mr Maseko.

Nevertheless, government is availing resources to be able to deal with crime in the country.

Delivering the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement in Parliament on Wednesday, Finance Minister Trevor Manuel said government would add further resources to strengthen its fight against crime.

For this reason, the number of police officers will be increased to 193 000 over the next three years.

The Minister further highlighted that they would employ more people in the legal system mainly to improve the rate at which cases are dealt with.

Spending on justice, policing and prisons would grow by 9.4 percent a year over the medium term. - BuaNews

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