Manto snubs Durban Aids Conference

South African National AIDS Council chairperson and deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka chastised organizers at Tuesday night’€™s opening for scheduling Tshabalala-Msimang’€™s speech during Wednesday’€™s plenary and not during the opening.


Many delegates expressed disappointment at the health minister’€™s decision to withdraw from Wednesday’€™s plenary session opting to send her AIDS director Dr Nomonde Xundu, who delivered a drab update on Government’€™s response to the epidemic.


‘€œI was really looking to forward to hearing whether the minister had embraced the new spirit of co-operation and the renewed energy that has been evident over the past few months,’€ said a delegate.


Organisers were unclear whether the deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, who has addressed several forums at the conference, would withdraw from Thursday’€™s plenary session. ‘€œThere is definitely pressure from higher up on her to do so, but we don’€™t know what she will decide,’€ said a source.


Conference chairperson Dr Olive Shisana was not prepared to comment on the developments.


Tshabalala-Msimang was scheduled to share the stage with eminent international and national scientists as well as Treatment Action Campaign Secretary-General Sipho Mthathi.


Addressing the more than 4 000 delegates Mthathi said it was exciting to speak at a time where she didn’€™t have to say ‘€œwe are at a crossroads’€.

‘€œWe have chosen the path we are going to take and there is no longer any equivocating about where we are going.


‘€œYes, we have bold and ambitious targets, but we don’€™t have a choice,’€ said Mthathi.


Addressing what she framed a ‘€œthorny issue’€, Mthathi said that with the current public sector strike taking place delegates had to consider the working conditions of public health workers.


‘€œThey are not earning a real living wage and we cannot isolate them from our discussions. We will not be able to implement the National Strategic Plan if we do not pay our workers,’€ said Mthathi.


In a veiled reference to the developments around the health minister, Mthathi said it was unfortunate that ‘€œwe almost got side-tracked’€.


‘€œWe want to say to Government that we are here in good faith. We are tired of the fighting and arguing. We want to work.’€


University of Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines Professor Bertran Auvert provided a lighter moment when he told women they had an important role to play in ensuring that male circumcision as a prevention intervention succeeded. ‘€œWomen need to state that they will only have sex with circumcised men,’€ he said to raucous laughter.


Tshabalala-Msimang’€™s spokesperson Sibani Mngadi could not be reached for comment.



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