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11 JUNE 2017
Programme Director
Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training – Mr Mduduzi Manana
Co-Chair of the Conference -  Ms Andile Mthombeni
Ms Carol Masinga – Soul City Rise Clubs
Ms Lerato Morulane – South African Aids Trust
Conference delegates
Young leaders
We have come to the end of this historic, vibrant and informative National Youth Conference focusing on the national priorities of HIV/AIDS, Sexually Transmitted Infections and Tuberculosis.
I wish to congratulate the Higher Education and Training HIV/AIDS (HEAIDS) Programme, its constituent 26 universities and 50 TVET colleges; and their social partners for bringing us together in this conference to discuss issues of such national importance.
The theme of this conference – ukuhlonyiswa kwabasha – empowering the Youth - could not have been more appropriate.  We would all agree that the conference has indeed gone beyond our expectations in sharing innovative practices towards health education, health promotion, knowledge generation and capacity building amongst our youth within the post school sector.
The timing of this National Youth Conference is most opportune.  It occurs when we usher in Youth Month in our country, during which we will commemorate the 41 years of the heroic legacy of the class of 1976.
This conference also occurs as we have just presented to the President of the Republic, on 02 June 2017, a status report on the implementation of the National Youth Policy 2020, through the Presidential Working Group on Youth.
To state the obvious, young people are sent to institutions of higher learning to acquire skills, not to acquire HIV, nor Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), nor Tuberculosis. These are skills that are greatly needed to catapult the socio-economic development of our country into the 22nd Century. However, we do know that institutions of higher learning are a microcosm of our society, and HIV/AIDS is a reality amongst us. We have to develop appropriate responses.
South Africa’s national response to HIV/AIDS and TB has over the last decade made significant strides that are globally recognized. In 2016/17, close to 10 million South Africans tested for HIV, as was the case in the previous financial year.
As at March 2017, a total of 3,8million people have been provided with access to Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). The TB cure rate has reached 85%.
Notwithstanding these great strides, empirical evidence points to disturbing trends in the attitudes, knowledge, perceptions and behavior of South Africans with respect to HIV/AIDS. I would like to quickly make reference to two national surveys conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and Statistics South Africa (Stats SA)
In April 2014, the HSRC published its fourth South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour Survey (SABSSM4) for 2012, with earlier surveys having been conducted in 2002; 2005 and 2008. For the survey, over 38 000 people were interviewed and close to 29 000 agreed to be tested for HIV. One of the many positive findings of the Survey was that over 2 million people were on ART by mid-2012, suggesting that the country was on its way towards universal access to treatment. This remains true to date.  The disturbing findings of the SABSSM4 survey revealed that:
(a)          Compared with 2008 data, there were trends reflecting a decline in condom use in all age groups, except for the 50 years and older group.
(b)          There was an increase in multiple sexual partnerships among sexually active people aged 15 years and older in 2012.
(c)          The majority (i.e. 76.5%) of the respondents aged 15 years and older, believed that they were at low risk of acquiring HIV infection.
(d)          Approximately one in ten (10%) who believed they were at low risk for acquiring HIV infection were already infected but didn’t know it.
(e)          The overall knowledge about how HIV is transmitted and prevented also declined from 30.3% in 2008 to 26.8% in 2012.
Now fast-forward to 2016.
The South African Demographic and Health Survey (SADHS) 2016 collected data from over 11,000 households in the country. The positive findings of the SADHS 2016 were that on the whole, the health of South Africans continues to improve. This corroborates other empirical sources of evidence. 
However, the SADHS 2016 also revealed increased risky sexual behaviour amongst youth and adults.  The SADHS 2016 found that only 58% of men and 65% of women who had multiple partners in the year preceding the survey reported that they used a condom during their last sexual intercourse.  This has direct relevance to our National Youth Conference.  I do hope that you have grappled with this finding including developing solutions to mitigate risky sexual behaviour amongst youth.
     The patterns of behaviour reflected in the 2014 SABSSM4 and the SADHS 2016 clearly indicate that a lot of work lies ahead of us – all us working together. The National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDs, STIs and TB 2017-2022, enjoins us to:
(a)                accelerate prevention to reduce new HIV, TB and STI infections
(b)                reduce morbidity and mortality by providing treatment, care and adherence support to all
(c)                reach all key and vulnerable populations with customised and  targeted  interventions
(d)                address the social and structural drivers of HIV, TB and STIs, and  linking these efforts to the NDP 2030
We can only tackle these tasks successfully through partnerships. Most importantly, we can register major victories if we also eliminate the socio-economic conditions that make people vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.
This National Youth Conference occurs during a period of insanity amongst some of the young men in our country. The South African Police are investigating the senseless killing of close to 40 women and children, by men – both intimate partners of, and strangers to these women. We condemn this scourge in the strongest possible terms.
What we also abhor vehemently are patriarchy and the oppression of women, which make them more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, STIs and TB, as well as violence.  As our iconic leader and longest serving President of the African National Congress, Oliver Reginald Tambo once said: “The struggle to conquer oppression in our country is the weaker for the traditionalist, conservative, and primitive restraints imposed on women by man-dominated structures within our movement, and also because of equally traditionalist attitudes of surrender and submission on the part of women” 
But we are very encouraged by the work of HEAIDS, and the visionary leadership and foresight of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), its sister government departments and its social partners. We are also very inspired by the outcomes of this National Youth Conference. May this work grow from strength to strength as you implement the resolutions of this National Youth Conference.
     I thank you
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