Remarks by Hon Moupo, Chairperson, HIV standing committee, SADC Parliamentary Forum. This workshop is important in that it strengthens the regional link. HIV is a challenge to all of us in SADC so it is important that we coordinate our efforts and strategies in combating it.
The more meetings we have for exchanging ideas the better because it gives us information that can influence our strategies. We need more information and my view is that the presenters here were very good. Civil Society Organisations and parliamentarians have been operating at arms’ length mainly because we did not appreciate each others’ role. Parliamentarians are in some cases regarded as part of government and civil society requires space that is autonomous from government. I appreciate this attempt to bridge the gap between us. Over time we will create reciprocal confidence.
We have just committed ourselves to reducing new HIV infections by 50 percent by 2015. That will take massive mobilization. It requires a lot of commitment from parliament and CSOs. There is also need for more information on HIV. With sufficient commitment and passion it can be done. The relationship between parliamentarians and civil society organisation has hitherto not been good as it was marked by lack of trust. I think this was largely due to lack of knowledge of either party’s respective roles. This can be overcome by exchanging ideas and getting to know each other better.
These suspicions between parliamentarians and civil society organisations are historical. They come a long way and the more we work together, the more we succeed in building confidence among ourselves and thereby improving the links and ability to work together. It will not be easy but it can be done.
This movement we have begun needs a lot of commitment by all stakeholders. It will take a lot of work with regard to informing ourselves more about the epidemics in our countries and the social cost that our region has had to incur as a result of the epidemic and what needs to be done to halt it. There is need for us to sensitise fellow MPs to this movement so that we approach it with the same urgency. We do not want this workshop to be just another talk shop. We want concrete action to come out of it. It makes a lot of sense for us to push the prevention agenda. From the various presentations during this workshop, it is clear that the world is struggling to ensure that all who need treatment get it. Already there are signs that money that is being set aside for treatment by our international partners is dwindling. Clearly, money for treatment is never guaranteed, more so now that there are other issues that cry out for attention, such as climate change. Reducing new HIV infections by 50 percent by the year 2015 is not easy given the little time between now and the year 2015. Yet we have to ensure that this goal is achieved for the sake of our people. We are encouraged by the commitment and determination shown by the stakeholders that were represented at this workshop. Our challenge now is to spread the word and give this movement the necessary momentum. As has been said by many participants to this workshop, leadership - particularly political leadership at the highest level - is needed if this movement is to be sustained. Prevention must succeed, lest all our development goals like the Millennium Development Goals also fail and our region sinks deeper into poverty.