11 Jun 2021
The Honorable Cyril Ramaphosa President Republic of South Africa Pretoria, South Africa 2 June 2021
We write to you today to thank you for your leadership in the fight against AIDS, and to kindly ask that you use your expertise and influence, and that of your Government, with the Africa Group as well as with G-7 and G-20 partners at this critically important moment in support of bold new global commitments to end AIDS.
Six years ago at the United Nations, world leaders gathered and committed to ending AIDS by 2030. We were grateful and inspired to hear you unequivocally report on World AIDS Day 2020 that South Africa is on track to achieve this historic goal. It is a testament to your legacy as President, the unwavering commitment of your Government, and the contributions of the full range of providers, activists and people living with HIV at the community level who have delivered some of the world’s leading HIV prevention, treatment and support services to millions of individuals and families in South Africa.
While a handful of nations are on track to end AIDS by 2030, globally we have missed the mark, and in the face of the COVID pandemic, much of our momentum has been lost and we are falling further behind. New infections globally in 2019 are more than 3 times the 2020 target and are rising for the first time in nearly two decades. More than 12 million people living with HIV in need are awaiting lifesaving treatment. Key populations are criminalized for who they are or who they love. Given these stark realities – we request you to do all you can to help the world get back on track in two specific ways.
First, we urge you, and those representing South Africa, to lead the Africa Group and the world toward a bold and forward-looking political declaration at the UN High Level Meeting June 8-10. We understand that the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) has positioned South Africa to make positive contributions to the negotiations and we hope all government officials push hard for these evidence and rights-based approaches. In particular, South Africa’s urgent engagement is needed to ensure the following issues are explicitly reflected in the Political Declaration and agreed to by consensus:
- protecting the human rights and ensuring the decriminalization of people living with HIV and key populations (gay men and men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, transgender people, sex workers, people in prison, and migrants and refugees) most at risk of HIV;
- redoubling of tailored, high impact, combination HIV prevention for populations most affected, including treatment as prevention;
- empowering of young women and girls, addressing gender-based violence and harmful cultural norms, sexual and reproductive health services and rights, and comprehensive sexuality education in and out of school;
- embracing the new 95-95-95 treatment target by 2025;
- closing the access to services gap for children, youth and young families by adopting & resourcing interim targets;
- supporting flexibility for manufacturing essential drugs, vaccines and other commodities in cases of emergencies such as HIV and COVID; and
- fully funding the AIDS response to the projected $29 billion per year by 2025, where developing countries contribute their fair share and the international community commits to financial, technical and other supports as needed.
Inclusion of these essential strategies in the 2021 Political Declaration would ensure greater equity in the AIDS response and help to get the world back on track for ending AIDS as a public health threat everywhere by 2030. In the past, South Africa has played a pivotal role in the UN negotiations on AIDS. Your leadership and South Africa’s direct engagement in this process is now much needed, including to encourage other delegations to support an ambitious new consensus. Second, we urge you to bring the momentum and actions agenda from the UN High Level Meeting on AIDS to other key fora, such as the G-7, G-20 and the African Union. Now more than ever, progress in the fight against AIDS is critically needed to advance broader global health goals, including building back bigger, better and fairer from COVID-19.
We understand that during the upcoming G-7 Summit, leaders will focus much attention on the global COVID pandemic, but find it deeply regrettable that AIDS is not featured currently on the agenda. We are grateful that South Africa has been included in these vitally important conversations. To meet the urgency of this present moment and to ensure that already scarce global health resources are efficiently utilized, we hope that you will urge the G-7 to build on investments in the fight against AIDS rather than reinvent the wheel. These investments have helped to develop fragile in-country surveillance & lab capacity, efficient data collection, supply chains & delivery systems, health care worker preparedness & training, and community engagement & mobilization. As you know well, these investments have yielded real results and have already been harnessed to fight COVID. They must now be strengthened and expanded if we are to end AIDS, manage COVID and be better prepared for the next pandemic.
Thank you again for your pivotal leadership in these historic efforts to end AIDS. We are proud of the lifesaving role that you and the Government of South Africa play on the world stage. As proud South African citizens and organizations, we stand ready to help in any way.
Charlize Theron, Founder, CTAOP and UN Messenger of Peace Trevor Noah, Founder, Trevor Noah Foundation The Rev. Canon Mpho Tutu van Furth, Executive Director, Stichting Tutu Teach Foundation Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, Professor and Director, Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, University of Cape Town and Chief Officer of the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation, South Africa Dr. Aslam Dasoo, Convenor, Progressive Health Forum Professor Glenda Gray, CEO and President, South African Medical Research Council Prof. James McIntyre, Honorary Professor, School of Public Health & Family Medicine, University of Cape Town Professor François Venter, PhD, FCP, DTM&H, Dip HIV Man, Divisional Director: Ezintsha, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg Corinna Csaky, Manager, Coalition for Children Affected by AIDS Janet Jobson, Acting CEO, DG Murray Trust Anne Aslett, CEO, Elton John AIDS Foundation Georgia Arnold, Executive Director, MTV Staying Alive Foundation Luann Hatane, Executive Director, PATA Patrick Onyango Mangen, CEO, REPSSI Anock Kapira, Programme Manager, RIATT-ESA Shalane Yuen, Executive Director, Trevor Noah Foundation Tebogo Suping, Executive Director, ACTIVATE! Change Drivers Scott Clarke, MPA, Founding Director, Amandla Development Audery February, Lee-Anne Jenkins, Kelly Petersen, Lorna Houston, Leadership team, BRAVE Rock Girl Ashlee George, Executive Director, Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project Tony Schnell, Director, Department of Social Responsibility of the Grahamstown Archdiocese of the Anglican Church Lisa Silwana, Youth Officer, Department of Social Responsibility of the Grahamstown Diocese of the Anglican Church Rachel Rozentals-Thresher, CEO, dlalanathi Petro Janse van Vuuren, Head of Department, Drama for Life, Wits University School of Arts Warren Nebe, Founder and Senior Lecturer, Drama for Life, Wits University School of Arts Hamish Mabala Neill, Projects Director and Lecturer, Drama for Life, Wits University School of Arts Yashmita Naidoo, CEO, HIVSA Sofia Neves, Managing Director, Life Choices Nanga Magadla, Advocate for Change, Small Projects Foundation Mohau Cele, Cast member, MTV Shuga Ayanda Makayi, Cast member, MTV Shuga Oros Mampofu, Cast member, MTV Shuga Malibongwe Mdwaba, Cast member, MTV Shuga Mamarumo Morokane, Cast member, MTV Shuga Mohale Motaung, Cast member, MTV Shuga Stephanie Sandows, Cast member and MTV Staying Alive Foundation Board Member, MTV Shuga Nomalanga Shozi, Cast member, MTV Shuga