Health Minister was invited

Deputy-president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka chastised organizers during her opening address on Tuesday for not affording the health minister a more prominent speaking platform.


The minister had been scheduled to speak at yesterday’€™s (Wed) plenary session, but withdrew.


However, Dira Sengwe, the official organizers of the conference ‘€œrefuted’€ that Tshabalala-Msimang’€™s participation in the conference was relegated to less importance.


Organisers said she had been invited ‘€œrepeatedly to take part officially at the opening of the conference on Tuesday evening’€.


‘€œThe Minister of Health was then given a prominent speaker slot in Wednesday’€™s plenary session. Plenaries are designed to feature the most important and distinguished speakers of the conference,’€ the statement said.


Organisers expressed regret at the fact that ‘€œthis apparent discord arises from an inaccurate perception of a slight to the Minister of Health; it detracts from the important objective of this conference, namely to reach consensus on critical and life-saving interventions on HIV and AIDS,’€ the statement continued.


Professor Jerry Coovadia, Chairperson of Dira Sengwe, said South Africa had, after a difficult period of serious differences between the state and civil society, reached an important milestone on confronting and controlling HIV and AIDS as one.


‘€œWe are at a moment when every one of our endeavours should focus on building on the positive energy and goodwill that has been built between our people and its government.


‘€œThe next crucial milestone is not to be deflected by this unfortunate episode, but to continue to reach consensus at this conference in order for us to move forward and save thousands, if not millions, of lives,’€ said Coovadia, an internationally renowned scientist.


‘€œIndeed we are at a symbolic threshold to launch the boldest initiative ever undertaken in this country for this disease, with all its people working together, according to an agreed and single plan, going forward to a single goal,’€ Coovadia said.


The health department yesterday (Wed) welcomed the official return of the health minister to her office.


She is expected to deliver her budget speech in parliament today (Thurs). Her spokesperson Sibani Mngadi said the minister was set to announce results from the latest Antenatal Survey of HIV prevalence among pregnant women which ‘€œindicates a statistically significant decrease in the prevalence of HIV in the country’€.


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