JOHANNESBURG, South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has described the country’s accomplishments in expanding HIV treatment and improving life expectancy as an inspiring story of civil society’s activism and vigilance.

Addressing the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) 6th National Congress in Sterkfontein, Johannesburg, on Thursday, he said the strides which had been made in expanding HIV treatment was a story of life, hope and possibility, where collaboration and united action overcomes untruths and mistrust.

Together we have crafted the new National Strategic Plan (NSP) to arrest the spread of new infections and to expand treatment. We must acknowledge that concerns have been raised about certain elements of the plan. We must engage on these concerns and find agreement on how to address them. However, we should be careful not to allow whatever gaps there may be in the plan to undermine its tremendous value as an instrument to unite South Africans in the struggle against HIV, TB and STIs (sexually-transmitted infections).

Considering where the country comes from and the disagreements that for too long thwarted the government’s response to HIV, the Deputy President said it would be unwise for anyone to turn their backs on a plan which had the potential to make a real and lasting impact.

Through the NSP, he added, South Africa is prioritising vulnerable communities who are at a high risk of contracting HIV and being infected with tuberculosis (TB). In addition to expanding treatment, the NSP aims to galvanise the nation to protect themselves from preventable infections and to empower women through skills development, access to health services and economic opportunities.

Ramaphosa also said the role of civil society organisations like the TAC in making he NSP work could not be overstated.

Organisations like the TAC have a major role in particular in influencing the provincial plans which are funded and led by provincial councils. They must challenge provinces to set bold targets and to lead inclusive responses. The TAC needs to use its grassroots organisational capacity to make sure that its achievements at a national level are replicated in the provinces and districts, he added.