KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu and eThekwini Metro Mayor James Nxumalo on Friday declared that the City of Durban was ready to host the 21st International Aids Conference in July.

Mchunu and Nxumalo made the announcement at a press conference that preceded a march through the city by senior health officials and Aids activists.

The premier, and the mayor, along with KwaZulu-Natal cooperative governance MEC Nomusa Ndube-Ncube then joined marchers through the city.

Olive Shisana, the former head of the Human Sciences Research Council and the current co-chair of the Aids 2016 organising committee, said that while much had been done in the fight, more still needed to be done.

“Unfortunately that number [the number of people living with Aids] is still growing. We have so much to gain from [hosting] such a conference. We have so much to offer.”

Shisana said the conference would be a springboard for new ideas and action to tackle the disease. She said that past conferences had created the political will to tackle the disease.

“While we have prevented many deaths, many still continue to die.”

She pointed out that annually there were still 300 000 new infections in South Africa, which has the largest number of people in the world who have contracted the disease.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa had been scheduled to be at the events marking the countdown to the conference, but without explanation, he did not attend.

The conference was last held in South Africa in 2000 when 12000 delegates attended. More than 15000 people are expected to attend the conference, which has the theme “Access, Equity, Rights Now”.

– By ANA