KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala says that the collision of the pandemics of HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 require decisive leadership and collaboration if South Africa is to succeed in overcoming them.

Zikalala made the remarks during the 21st International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA) closing ceremony held on Saturday.

He said research shows that such diseases thrive in situations of poverty and gender inequality, meaning that our policies must be geared to reducing inequality and ending discrimination of vulnerable groups and those in key populations.

“We must consciously adopt policies in our governments that adopt gender mainstreaming, prioritise the education of women and girls, and provide economic empowerment opportunities through government procurement processes.

“It means us fighting hate crimes and discrimination of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) community and daily advancing the vision of Generation Equality by 2030. To succeed, we must put the protection of human rights at the centre of our approaches,” Zikalala said.

Zikalala added that COVID-19 has brought to bear the need for the Continent of Africa to prioritise investments in healthcare and health infrastructure.

He emphasised that healthcare and the wellbeing of populations must be seen not only as a human rights imperative, but also as good business investments because “a healthy population is a productive one”.

“In this regard, we join the voices that are calling for African countries to honour the commitments that they made in 2001 through the Abuja Declaration. The Abuja Declaration called for at least 15% of national budgets of AU member states to go towards improving their healthcare systems and infrastructure.

“At the global level, we welcome the commitment undertaken by world leaders during the sitting of the United Nations General Assembly this year where they adopted the political declaration on HIV/AIDS by pledging to end inequalities by 2030 in an effort to get on track to end AIDS by 2030,” Zikalala said.

Universal healthcare

Meanwhile, Zikalala said government remains committed to universal healthcare, through the accelerated implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI).

“We are in the last year of Phase 2 of the National Health Insurance implementation plan. Phase 3 will commence in 2022. In Phase 1 and 2, we saw a massive investment in infrastructure, human resources, health systems and human development,” the Premier said.

He said for this financial year, KwaZulu-Natal Province will focus on improving the clinical governance and compliance systems; establishing a properly resourced Health Compliance and Accreditation Unit; and strengthening the primary health care re-engineering and systems.

“In readiness for the implementation of the NHI, provincial government resolved that every district in KZN must have a Regional Hospital. The brand new Dr Pixley Ka Isaka Seme Memorial Hospital is 500-bed hospital providing regional services to our communities in the Inanda-Ntuzuma-KwaMashu (INK) area,” Zikalala said.

Source: South African Government News Agency

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