November 12, 2002
Deputy President Jacob Zuma addressed the National Health Providers' Prayer Day celebration in Ermelo, Mpumalanga Province, in eastern South Africa on Sunday, saying the South African government has moved to address the shortage of doctors specifically trained to provide care for people with HIV/AIDS.
Currently only 2,000 of the country's 27,000 registered medical practitioners have been trained to provide care to HIV/AIDS patients. "For this reason, the Department of Health is running a series of training programs in collaboration with academic institutions and other role players," Zuma said.
"The government is also working towards establishing public sector centers of excellence for HIV/AIDS care in all nine provinces," he said. The main objective of the centers would be to ensure development of curricula on HIV/AIDS and TB care; to ensure the dissemination of guidelines; and to ensure health care workers are adequately skilled in providing care and support to those who need it, Zuma said. "We are also intensifying efforts to assist families affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The departments of health, social development and education are working together on this."
Zuma said the pandemic was taking a toll not only on the population but also on health care providers who had to face the ill and dying everyday, while providing counseling, care and support to them and their families. "It is both physically and emotionally draining and we truly acknowledge the role of our health workers in this regard," Zuma said.
Calling on everyone to work together to fight the disease, Zuma said negative attitudes could only result in people being denied the treatment, care and support they need, while also discouraging people from being tested. "Government is therefore intensifying its campaign against discrimination," he said. "Steps towards fighting discrimination include the drafting of a plan for national education on legal and human rights of people living with HIV/AIDS," Zuma said, calling on the nation to fight against stigma and support for health providers.