Sonke and many other South African civil society organisations are calling for the reinstatement of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on HIV and AIDS. Below is our media statement calling for the reconstitution of the committee as well as letters that have been sent to the Speaker of Parliament, the Chairperson on National Council of Provinces and the National Chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC).

Dear Ms Baleka Mbethe
Speaker of Parliament

Mrs Thandi Modise
Chairperson on National Council of Provinces

STATUS OF THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON HIV AND AIDS

We as the undersigned organisations write to request information on the status of the Joint Committee on HIV and AIDS (JC) during the 5th Parliament.

HIV and AIDS remains one of the biggest threats to development in Sub-Saharan Africa and women remain the most affected group by the epidemic. In 2012, which is the same year that the committee was established the UNAIDS estimated that 25 million people were living with HIV in Sub Saharan Africa. South Africa is one of the hardest hit countries with approximately 6.4 million people living with HIV and AIDS. This makes up more than 50% of the HIV cases in the Southern African Development Community.

The Joint Committee stemmed from recommendations of the IPU (2009) and SADC-PF (2008) and lobbying, research and advocacy by partners such as DFID, UNAIDS, civil society and the National Democratic Institute. Advocates of the committee recognized the prevalence and impact of HIV and AIDS across South African society and the importance of government action in the many spheres of HIV and AIDS work. This includes Parliamentary oversight and holding accountable of the South African National AIDS Council.

We recently noted that all committees have been announced and some have begun their business but the Joint Committee did not appear on the list. We write this letter to request the official status of the Joint Committee at this point in time, and inquire into the future plans for maintaining the JC as an active committee.

We are also requesting for a formal meeting with you to continue discussions on the status of the committee.

We would really appreciate a response from your office by 8th August 2014.

We look forward to hearing from you

Sincerely

  1. Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation
  2. AIDS Accountability International (AAI)
  3. National Association of People Living with HIV and AIDS (NAPWA)
  4. SECTION 27
  5. Sonke Gender Justice
  6. South African National AIDS Council (Civil Society Forum)
  7. Treatment Action Campaign
  8. World AIDS Campaign International
  9. Wellness Foundation

15 September 2014

Ms. Baleka Mbethe, MP
Speaker of National Assembly
Parliament of the Republic of South Africa
P O Box 15
Cape Town
8000

Ms. Thandi Modise, MP
Chairperson on National Council of Provinces
Parliament of the Republic of South Africa
P O Box 15
Cape Town
8000

The Presiding Officers

FOLLOW-UP ON THE CORRESPONDENCE SENT THROUGH TO YOUR RESPECTIVE OFFICES ON 22 JULY 2013 ENQUIRING ABOUT THE STATUS OF THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON HIV AND AIDS

Pursuant to our letter dated 22 July 2014, enquiring about the status of the Joint Committee on HIV and AIDS, this letter serves as a follow-up on the initial request. We, the undersigned civil society organisations (CSOs) are extremely concerned of the non-response to our letter particularly because women constitute a significantly number of people affected by the advanced HIV compared to men. In our previous letter we stated that during the establishment of the 5th Parliament, there was no determination on the re-establishment of the Joint Committee on HIV and AIDS which we consider as serious omission considering that the advanced HIV is a development phenomenon. Furthermore, we advance and underscore the following points as rationale for the re-establishment of the afore-mentioned committee:

  • The continuous shortage of antiretroviral treatment (ART) in various provinces and recently in Free State where people were not able to access their treatment and their quality of health being compromised as a result,
  • The Rapid Mortality Surveillance Report, which claims that the maternal mortality rate in South Africa was still increasing as of 2009 due to various factors including poverty, TB and HIV related complications. It also suggests that South Africa is unlikely to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4 and 5 which relates to halting child and maternal mortality,
  • In 2013, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) applauded South Africa’s HIV turnaround intervention as a yardstick for other countries to match. However, complacency and poor governance in some provincial and local levels of government compromise this accolade and the life of thousands of people who depend on the provision of quality healthcare including ART, and
  • The recent reports of dual infection of Tuberculosis (TB) and AIDS is another challenge that requires oversight from provincial and national levels to mitigate further spread of the dual epidemics.

Based on the above, we call upon you as Presiding Officers to re-establish the said Committee particularly because the worse affected population is women. And the other compelling reason for the re-establishment of the Committee is that South Africa invests billions in HIV related programmes hence oversight is cardinal to guarantee that the allocated resources meet the intended beneficiaries. To this end, as undersigned CSOs, we urge the Presiding Officers to consider the re-establishment of the Committee soonest. We consider the said Committee as cornerstone in exercising its oversight over government departments and entities including private sector for among others the development programmes to alleviate possible spread of HIV.

In the spirit of cooperation between CSOs and Legislature, we request for your response detailing the time-frame for the re-establishment of the said committee by no later than 26 September 2014.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

  1. Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation
  2. AIDS Accountability International (AAI)
  3. National Association of People Living with HIV and AIDS (NAPWA)
  4. SECTION 27
  5. Sonke Gender Justice
  6. South African National AIDS Council (Civil Society Forum)
  7. Treatment Action Campaign
  8. World AIDS Campaign International
  9. Wellness Foundation

STATUS-OF-THE-JOINT-COMMITTEE-ON-HIV-AND-AIDS

14th November 2014

Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa
National Chairperson
South African National AIDS Council (SANAC)
Thabo Sehume and Andries streets
Pretoria.
0001

Dear Sir

STATUS OF THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON HIV AND AIDS

We as the undersigned forum and organisations write to request information on the status of the Joint Committee on HIV and AIDS (JC) during the 5th democratic administration within Parliament.

As civil society, we have noted with great concern that most committees have been announced and some have begun their business but the Joint Committee on HIV and AIDS has not been instituted.

Pursuant to that at the start of July 2014, we met and resolved to approach the legislature to clarify this important matter. In particular we wrote a letter addressed to both the new Speaker of Parliament and the new Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces to publicly clarify the status of the Joint Committee or at the very minimum have a meeting with representatives of civil society. The letter was sent to the aforementioned offices at the end of July and as of today, 14th November 2014, we have not yet received either an acknowledgement of receipt of the letter nor a response. We have since then tried on several occasions to solicit a response but to no avail.

However since South African civil society deems this issue as a matter of critical national importance, we have now resolved as a collective to approach you as National Chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) to help us clarify in no uncertain terms the status of the Joint Committee.

SA civil society, by way of this letter, requests from you, as National Chairperson of SANAC an urgent and clear response that explains the official status of the Joint Committee.

Recently, we learnt that the National Treasury is to advance R15.8 million to SANAC in 2016/17 financial year for the implementation of National Strategic Plan on HIV, STI and TB. Civil society feels that without the Joint Committee on HIV and AIDS, the gains made are likely to be lost. The Joint Parliamentary Committee on HIV and AIDS is necessary to ensure that SANAC has a mechanism that ensures their accountability to the South African public, within the parliamentary structures.

Moreover, specifically because the target for meeting and reporting on the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is next year (2015), SANAC will also be underway with the mid-term reporting on the National Strategic Plan on HIV, TB and STI’s 2012-2016 (NSP) and the Committee needs to be involved in this process.

In addition to this, the agenda for post 2015 has started and since it is political, the Joint Committee on HIV and AIDS needs to be involved to influence its outcome.

It remains vital to remember that the proportion of South Africans infected with HIV has increased from 10.6% in 2008 to 12.2% in 2012, according to the Human Sciences Research Council’s (HSRC) National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour Survey. The total number of infected South Africans now stands at 6.4-million; 1.2-million more than in 2008. Women aged between 30 and 34 and males aged 35 to 39 have the highest infection rates: 36% of females and 28.8% of males in these respective age groups contracted HIV.

We cannot afford to lose the ground that we have gained, rather we need to upscale our commitment, and response.

It remains vital that the Joint Parliamentary Committee on HIV and AIDS be reinstated. In this regard, we are also requesting for a formal meeting with you to continue discussions on the status of the Joint Parliamentary Committee.

We would really appreciate a response from your office by 27th November 2014.

We look forward to hearing from you

Sincerely,

  1. South African National AIDS Council (Civil Society Forum)
  2. Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation
  3. AIDS Accountability International
  4. Access Chapter 2
  5. National Association of People Living with HIV and AIDS
  6. SECTION 27
  7. Sonke Gender Justice
  8. Treatment Action Campaign
  9. South African HIV Clinicians Association
  10. Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Southern Africa
  11. Pan African Treatment Access Movement
  12. World AIDS Campaign International
  13. Wellness Foundation
  14. African Men for Sexual Health and Rights
  15. Coalition of African Lesbians
  16. AIDS and Rights Alliance of Southern Africa
  17. Network of East African AIDS Service Organisations
  18. Southern Africa AIDS Trust
  19. Southern African AIDS Information Dissemination Services
  20. Networking HIV/AIDS Community Of South Africa