Hon Speaker, hon members of the House, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen, in my budget speech on 15 May 2013 I made a humble request to the hon Speaker to provide a date when we would launch the HIV Counselling and Testing Campaign, commonly known as the HCT campaign, in Parliament, with the hon Speaker and the hon Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces taking the lead, followed by leaders of all political parties in this hallowed Chamber. Today, that day has arrived and I am very excited about it.
It gives me great pleasure to be here today, in this extremely important and powerful place in the country, to launch the HCT campaign for Members of Parliament of the Republic of South Africa as well as all those who work here. The campaign was launched this morning by the Deputy President of the country and the chairperson of the SA National Aids Council, Sanac, hon Kgalema Motlanthe.
Since the launch of the national HCT campaign by the President of South Africa on 25 April 2010, more than 18 million people have been tested for HIV, and a significant number screened for tuberculosis, TB, as well as for other chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus and hypertension. Although the campaign was successful, as acknowledged by such bodies as UNAids, there are still a number of sectors in the country that have not yet been reached.
The National Development Plan, NDP, Vision 2030, that has been adopted by this House, suggests that for us to produce positive results in developmental health in the country, life expectancy in South Africa must be raised to at least 70 years; we must ensure that the generation of under- 20s is largely free of HIV and Aids; we need to reduce the burden of disease; and we need to achieve an infant mortality rate of less than 20 deaths per thousand live births, including an under-5 mortality rate of less than 30 per thousand.
However, unless we deal decisively with the HIV and Aids pandemic, none of the dreams of the NDP will ever be attainable, because the biggest contributor to most of these problems is the HIV and Aids pandemic. Therefore, there is a need to encourage all South Africans to test for HIV and to be screened for TB annually through the creation of an enabling environment for HCT.
This is why we decided at an earlier Sanac plenary meeting that the Presidency will relaunch the HCT campaign in the country. This relaunch will take place in the Gert Sibande district in the Mpumalanga province on 1 December 2013, which is World Aids Day. Today's launch is just a build-up to that countrywide launch. The rationale for choosing the Gert Sibande district for the relaunch of the HCT campaign is that it is now officially the district with the highest prevalence of HIV and Aids in the country.
Along with the relaunch of the HCT campaign, we will launch a national medical male circumcision campaign at the same time. As you know, MMC is a critical strategy to decrease HIV/Aids infection, as demonstrated in a number of clinical trials in South Africa and other countries on the continent. The services offered at the same time as the HCT campaign, today at Parliament and in December in Mpumalanga, includes blood pressure monitoring, screening for diabetes mellitus, screening of body mass index, BMI, which, as you know, has become a crisis in the country as well as in this Parliament, TB symptomatic screening and TB diagnosis using the GeneXpert machine. Male medical circumcision services are also available for those who want to access this service. We are inviting those of you who need to do it and have not done so. I can help you because I am also involved in that sector. All those who test positive for HIV/Aids, TB or other noncommunicable diseases will be referred to appropriate health facilities for further management and care.
The National Strategic Plan, NSP, for HIV/Aids, sexually transmitted infections, STIs, and TB suggests that every South African should be tested annually. I want to emphasise the words "every South African", regardless of age, status or station in life. Today's event will contribute significantly towards scaling up HCT in the country by showing everyone that there is strong political leadership in the country that supports the war against HIV and Aids.
The HCT campaign is an appropriate and powerful vehicle for social mobilization on HIV and Aids, and TB. In addition, the HCT campaign is very important as it is the entry point to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. It facilitates the provision of male and female condoms to every person who receives HIV counselling and testing. As you know, used accurately and consistently, condoms play a crucial role in the prevention of HIV/Aids, other STIs as well as unplanned pregnancies.
As we saw when the President launched the HCT campaign in April 2010, HCT contributed to the reduction of the stigma related to HIV and Aids, and TB. HCT can also help us to identify and reach the most at-risk population, as articulated in the NSP 2012-16. So, it is important that Members of Parliament take the lead, for everybody in society to see that this disease is a disease of everybody. It can even enter into the most powerful places on earth. People must not fear being tested.
Since the launch of HCT in 2010, several sectors have been mobilised to launch the HCT campaign. These include the industrial, financial, mining, farming, village, public, Correctional Services, sports and entertainment sectors, etc. We also partnered with the Rotary Club to include HCT and screening for TB as part of Rotary's Health Week. In the past, they used to have the health week without this, and we are very happy that it has been included.
We see the participation of leadership and prominent members of society in the HCT campaign as a powerful message to all people of South Africa, and a powerful vehicle for social mobilisation to address the issue of stigma and discrimination and ensuring early access to care. We are committed to eliminating the exclusion of persons living with HIV and TB in the country.
I also wish to take this opportunity to communicate to the people of South Africa the government's commitment to expand highly effective antiretroviral, ARV, drugs that are easier to administer. As you are aware, on 8 April this year we launched the introduction of the fixed-dose combination, FDC, as a clear demonstration that the government is serious about simplifying treatment in order to improve compliance and adherence to treatment. Testing HIV-positive is no longer a death sentence and is just like any other chronic illness. It can be treated and people who are HIV- positive can live long and healthy lives.
The FDC pill contains the same three drugs that are used for first-line treatment, but the FDC is administered only once a day, reducing the pill burden and making adherence simpler for patients. At the launch of FDC I mentioned why this was important:
Firstly, the FDC pill is simple to administer and is highly effective; secondly, patients take one FDC pill daily; thirdly, using FDC will improve compliance and adherence to treatment, thus keeping patients virologically suppressed and reducing the risk of developing drug resistance to ARVs as well as transmitting the disease to those who are HIV-negative.
Fourthly, patients on TB and HIV treatment will have a reduced pill burden and therefore have improved compliance to treatment and suffer fewer side effects.
Lastly, mothers who are HIV-positive and are breastfeeding can get an FDC pill, which will reduce the risk of HIV transmission during breastfeeding.
Let me say a few words about TB, because 80% of people who are HIV-positive and who unfortunately pass away are actually killed by TB. There are 22 countries in the world that carry 80% of the world's TB cases. Unfortunately, six of those 22 countries are in the Southern African Development Community, SADC, and South Africa is one of them. All five Brics countries are counted among these 22 countries. A total of 60% of all people who have multidrug-resistant, MDR tuberculosis, in the world are found in the five Brics countries.
In South Africa the highest prevalent rate of TB is found in Correctional Services. It is number one in the country, and that is why the Deputy President, as the leader of Sanac, which now includes TB, launched on World TB Day on 24 March, a campaign in Pollsmoor Prison, which is one of the correctional facilities. He launched a campaign for us to have all the inmates screened before they are admitted to Correctional Services' facilities. Thereafter, they will be screened twice per year and be put on treatment, and then we will get a list of all those who have tested positive for TB from Correctional Services. We will follow up on their families and screen them, because the screening process is very important. We chose Pollsmoor Prison because, as you know, that is where Tata Madiba also contracted TB. So it was chosen symbolically. I am happy to report that all 12 000 inmates in Pollsmoor have been screened for TB. We used the GeneXpert machine on them, and out of the 12 000 who were screened, 176 are now on treatment.
I also want to mention to you that the issue of screening the population is important. We know that in South Africa 405 000 families have a member with TB. Starting in March 2011, we put together 18 teams to visit these families, and 150 000 of those families have been visited. We screened the whole family with the GeneXpert machine, especially the children. Guess what? We found that 3 000 people had TB, but they never knew it until this screening was done. So the issue of screening is very important because you might not have symptoms. We know that the following symptoms are important: coughing for longer than two weeks; chest pains; unintentionally losing weight; and sweating at night. Again, the HIV test, sputum test or the GeneXpert test can be very helpful, which is why we have brought the GeneXpert machine here.
Let me also say a few words about noncommunicable diseases. An hon member of this House has just sat down after speaking emotionally about cancer. As you know, it is one of the noncommunicable diseases, together with high blood pressure and chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus and chronic lung diseases like asthma, that is a new threat to the world. Noncommunicable diseases are diseases of lifestyle. If our lifestyles change, so will these disease patterns in our communities.
We do not know the causes of these noncommunicable diseases, but we know that commonly there are four risk factors: smoking, alcohol, poor or wrong diet and lack of physical activity. Government has taken a number of steps to assist by, for example, passing tough regulations on the sale and advertising of tobacco products; limiting the salt content of processed foods; and regulating the use of transfatty acids.
We are now looking forward to curbing the advertising of alcohol. We know that there are those who are fighting us because they believe we are playing a game. We are not playing a game. We are faced with a titanic battle. It's believed that long after HIV/Aids is gone, and it may be so in 30 years, the noncommunicable diseases will still be around. They will never go away as long as human beings are alive because of the fact that they are lifestyle diseases. It means that we have to be very careful in controlling noncommunicable diseases. So when we introduce caps like the ban on the advertising of alcohol, we are not doing so because we want to punish people, but we are doing so because the world is faced with a disaster. The UN believes that if drastic steps are not taken in the next decade or two, many countries will simply not be able to carry their health budgets because of the burden of treatment they will carry.
Just imagine sitting here in this Parliament, going through budgets and realising that in order for human beings to continue living, we must cut budgets from all other sectors, including education, housing andr social development just to keep people alive. I'm not trying to threaten you, I'm not trying to mobilise for a higher budget for health, but I'm mobilising for something that we know works - prevention of diseases and promotion of health. If you prevent them, you won't need a lot of money. So when we say that we want to put a regulation in place to cap this or that, and people call us a "nanny state" or say "we are not children", we simply want you as leaders to understand.
Lastly, before sitting down, I want to remind members that earlier I mentioned to hon Ambrosini the issues that work and don't work. As I said, the first one that works is to avoid the risk factors. Firstly, we are aware that this does not necessarily mean that everybody who is ill has been involved in these risk factors, but a large number of people are, and this has been scientifically proven.
Secondly, if we have to treat them, we must use agreed-upon scientific methods and protocols. These scientific methods and protocols are annually agreed upon by the World Health Organisation, WHO, through the World Health Assembly that takes place in Geneva every May. All the Ministers of Health in the world, all scientists, civil society and other activists get together for the whole week to draw up policies. Until now we have only received our policies from the WHO. So, when I follow those policies, do understand that we are following science. This is the only method we know now, until something else may come up in the future. But at the moment, this is the only method that we can follow.
So I would once more like to urge everyone to get tested in the next few days for HIV and Aids, TB, hypertension, BMI, cholesterol, and all the other ailments that are threatening our lives. Please understand that this is not a once-off thing. This year it is the launch, but we are hoping that you will do it every year, with the leadership of the Deputy President, the presiding officers in this Parliament, the leaders of political parties and the Chief Whips.
When we leave this Parliament today, we will extend a similar campaign to all the provincial legislatures in the country; from there to all the district municipalities, where the district mayors must lead the campaign, together with leaders of political parties there. From there we will go to all the local municipalities, where the local mayors must also lead the campaign.
Last week I had the honour and opportunity to address bishops from various denominations in this country. I urged them, like Parliament, to choose a day on which all the church members will be tested, so that on that particular day church-going people will know that it is their opportunity to get tested. Only in this way will we be able to say that the ideals and dreams mentioned in the NDP of South Africans living up to 70 years, having an HIV-free generation, reducing maternal and child mortality and reducing the burden of diseases that our country and, indeed the whole continent, is carrying will be attained. It's the only way that this will happen.
In conclusion, I would like to thank the hon Speaker, the hon Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces and the Members of Parliament for taking the lead and participating. They can only gain one thing, which is that the country will be saved from this scourge. I thank you. [Applause.]