Parliament calls for resilient public health system

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The Speaker of the National Assembly Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says the country needs to build a resilient public health system that can withstand a crisis like COVID-19, without it being detrimental to other national health programmes like HIV/Aids treatment.

She was speaking during the virtual AIDS Day debate in Parliament.

This year’s World AIDS Day is commemorated under the theme, “Community response to overcome the spread of HIV and the impact of AIDS interventions”.

All healthcare resources were diverted to manage COVID-19, which led to other national health programmes being compromised. Mapisa-Nqakula says that this should be a lesson to build a public health system that is more resilient.

“COVID strained our healthcare systems, diverted attention away from fight against AIDS, essential we learn from this experience and build a more resilient healthcare system that can address multiple healthcare challenges simultaneously.”

Other participants in the debate, agreed. DA member Michele Clarke says the progress the country had made in fighting HIV/AIDS, have been eroded by COVID-19.

“SA remains one with highest infection rates globally, positive steps take but much work remains, impact of COVID compounded it, straining resources and diverting attention from HIV/AIDS.”

EFF MP Dr Suzan Thembekwayo and FF Plus MP Heloise Denner says poor management of the disease by government is reversing the gains that were made.

“Recent years, dramatic increase in AIDS deaths, due to socio economic situation, important for people who are on treatment, that they must have food to eat. The failure of economy to create jobs is deadly in this regard, because robs people of fundamental factor of coping with the disease,” says Thembekwayo.

“As of 2022 SA is third on highest incidents infections worldwide, with 3.15 newly infected persons per thousand inhabitants of country. Most alarming in KZN 15 -24, with 1300 youth contracting the virus every week. Not winning the fight, every step we take forward, forced to take two steps back,” says Denner.

ACDP MP Marie Sukers and GOOD Party’s Brett Herron both added that more needs to be done to curb the scourge of AIDS.

“More needs to be done by government and us, to better country’s circumstance, failed people in rural areas, have challenges that make every day uphill battle, like access to medication and clean drinking water and ablution. Some of things that add to the mountain we have to climb to a realistic community response to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS,” says Sukers.

“It is only by listening to those fighting the disease we may have change of eliminating the disease. Stigma attached makes it harder to seek treatment and stop the spread. We need an education campaign. Only action through education can eliminate the virus at its source,” adds Herron.

Deputy Minister of Health, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, told MPs that fewer people are getting infected in South Africa.

“Fewer people are getting infected, kids born without positive status, people live really long lives, making progress re UNAIDS 95/95 targets. 90% of the infected know their status and are getting treatment and virally suppressed.”