Zuma 'upsets HIV fight'

THE Treatment Action Campaign has urged President Jacob Zuma to assume leadership and responsibility for himself, those around him and South Africa in fighting HIV-Aids.

THE Treatment Action Campaign has urged President Jacob Zuma to assume leadership and responsibility for himself, those around him and South Africa in fighting HIV-Aids.

Zuma's leadership on Aids needs some constructive scrutiny, the TAC says in its latest newsletter.

"We do not want to impose moral judgments on people, especially not on their private matters," it says.

Many of the responses to Zuma's actions has been "hysterical and self-righteous".

"But the president is not just any person. People look up to him to set an example. In a country without a serious HIV epidemic it might be arguable that his extra-marital affairs are for him and his family alone to resolve," the TAC says.

But South Africa has the world's largest HIV epidemic.

The president holds the highest office in South Africa and therefore there are high expectations of him as a leader, an elder and a role model.

"We come from an era of denialism and a lack of leadership on HIV and Aids.

"The new administration, in particular the president, chairperson of the South Africa National Aids Council (Sanac) Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and the ministry of health under the leadership of (Aaron) Motsoaledi, have expressed their commitment to turning the tide on HIV and Aids.

"It is imperative that all leaders speak and act as a unit and with one voice.

"Last year Sanac agreed on one message for Aids in South Africa.

"The theme for World Aids Day 2009 was 'I am responsible, We are responsible, South Africa is taking responsibility'."

This message signified the start of a new era on how South Africa, under Zuma's leadership, was going to tackle the epidemic.

It was also chosen, among other reasons, to prevent HIV transmission that occurred through multiple concurrent sexual relations.

The message encouraged individuals to reduce their number of sexual partners, for men and women to take responsibility by protecting themselves and others, and to encourage consistent and correct condom usage.

The reality was that South Africa faced an extremely high HIV prevalence among young women - almost one in three who attended ante-natal clinics lived with HIV.

Women's vulnerability to HIV manifested from their power status in their relationships and this exposed them to HIV transmission.

Multiple concurrent partnerships increased the possibilities of HIV transmission.

This was made even worse when condoms were not used.

It was important to acknowledge that it was not by coincidence that most women who lived with HIV were young and probably got infected from older men.

"But the president's recent actions undermined all who are really trying to meet the prevention target of reducing HIV transmission by 50percent."

The TAC urged Zuma to assume leadership and responsibility for himself, for those around him and for South Africa.

"The message of responsibility agreed on by civil society and government applies to all, including the highest leaders.

"South Africa must take responsibility and it starts with all of us as individuals," the TAC says. - Sapa

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