Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP, on the Introduction of the Three- Year Human Rights Plan at the Launch of the National Human Rights Plan in response to Human Rights-Related Barriers to HIV and TB services and Gender Inequality, held at Gugu Dlamini Memorial Park, Durban, 11 June 2019
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are here today in a park that honours the memory of Gugu Dlamini.
Many of us know about Gugu’s life and her activism and why we honour her today.
In 1998, Gugu – who was from KwaMashu - found that the silence surrounding HIV/AIDS made people’s suffering worse and she wanted to be a voice for those living with HIV/AIDS.
She then joined the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) and announced to the press that she was living with AIDS.
Days after the press conference, on 14 December 1998, several local men harassed her, attacked her, followed her home and stoned her to death.
Her death was an example of the depth of HIV stigma in South Africa.
And sadly, Gugu was not the only one.
There were others, such as Lorna Mlofana, a TAC activist who in December 2003, was raped by a group of men outside a shebeen in Khayelitsha. When she disclosed that she was HIV positive, they murdered her.
South Africa has come a long way over the past two decades in the fight for human rights for all in our country and we have also seen a major improvement in the overall management of HIV/AIDS.
Yet, although South Africa is recognised globally for its response and position to human rights, there are still important gaps to close with respect to the full implementation of the human rights agenda, particularly the rights of people living with HIV and TB and certain key and vulnerable populations.
When it comes to the rights of people living with HIV and TB, it is critical to translate key policies into implementation and to ensure that all people know their rights and how to seek redress when their rights are violated.
Rights-based responses to health recognise the importance of reaching out to those who are most vulnerable and marginalised.
It is vital that the barriers to human rights which prevent people from accessing services must be removed, in particular for women, the youth, sex workers, people who use drugs, detained persons, LGBTI persons and people with disabilities.
In line with realisation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and ensuring that we leave no one behind, it is imperative that people with HIV, TB and STIs and other key and vulnerable populations lead in driving the human rights agenda and the access to justice agenda.
In November 2018, a multi-stakeholder human rights meeting agreed that the established Human Rights Working Group should develop a three-year strategic plan to guide the implementation of comprehensive and focused programmes to remove human rights-related barriers to services, to collect evidence through a monitoring system, and to cost the plan.
The draft three-year Human Rights Plan has been developed over the last seven months, based on the National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs 2017-2022.
It is informed by current priorities in responding to identified human rights and gender-related barriers to HIV and TB in South Africa.
The three-year Human Rights Plan outlines 7 key programmes, which are:
- To reduce stigma and discrimination;
- To sensitize and train health workers and service providers, including community based workers;
- To sensitize law and policy makers and law enforcers;
- To increase legal literacy (“know-your-rights”) campaigns;
- To strengthen access to legal support services;
- To monitor, review and reform laws and policies, and
- To reduce gender inequality, harmful gender norms and gender-based violence.
All the interventions focus on both HIV and TB-related law and human rights issues.
South Africa is one of the countries with the highest burden of TB and World Health Organisation statistics give an estimated incidence of 322,000 cases of active TB in our country.
When it comes to HIV/AIDS, according to the 2018 mid-year population estimates released by Stats SA, the estimated overall HIV prevalence rate is approximately 13% among the South African population and the total number of people living with HIV in our country is estimated at approximately 7,5 million.
We cannot allow that the human rights of those living with HIV and TB are infringed or ignored or that they continue to face discrimination and prejudice in their daily lives.
Stigma, prejudice, ignorance and discrimination are also diseases that we have to confront. And we are confident that the national Human Rights Plan will provide a comprehensive response to human rights-related barriers and will ensure that we leave no one behind.
I thank you.