Read on his behalf by the Deputy Prime Minister Senator Themba Masuku







Your Royal Highnesses


Honourable Ministers

Members of both Houses of Parliament

Your Excellency Ambassador of the European Union

Your Excellency United States Ambassador

United Nations Resident Coordinator

Representatives of the United Nations family

Chairperson and members of the NERCHA Council

Executive Director of NERCHA and Staff

Civil Society representatives

People Living with HIV

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is my honour, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, to join you all here today for the commemoration of the World AIDS day.

I am unable to attend in person due to an assignment that has taken me out of the country and the Deputy Prime Minister has agreed to read my remarks.

As the Kingdom of Eswatini joins the rest of the world to commemorate the World AIDS Day today it is encouraging to observe that the country is steadily gaining control over the HIV epidemic. On this day where we reflect and reaffirm our commitment to work together in the fight against HIV, we fortify our determination to achieve the national goal of ending AIDS as public health threat by 2022. 

The theme for the World AIDS Day commemoration this year is “Communities make the difference.” It recognizes the benefits of working together as different communities to succeed in achieving a common goal.  The strength of any community is in bringing together ideas, energy and resources, so that gaps and weakness of each other are overcome. The community then becomes a strong and formidable force that can overcome any difficulty.  Working together as communities is crucial, if we are to effectively accelerate the HIV response towards ending AIDS.

Allow me from the onset to express my profound gratitude to Their Majesties whose personal commitment and wise leadership in the HIV and AIDS response has created an enabling environment for all the positive progress made thus far. Indeed, the successes that the country has made in the response is a result of concerted efforts by the different communities ranging from our partners, the donor community internal and external, civil society, churches, public and private sectors and imiphakatsi.

Programme director, distinguished guests, the 2019 Estimates and Projections indicate that the country is on the right path towards ending AIDS. However, Emaswati will only achieve the target of ending AIDS within the set timeframe, if we all accelerate the uptake of HIV services to further reduce HIV infections among men, adolescents, young women between 15 - 24 years and among key populations at substantive risk of HIV infection. There is an urgent need to close the tap. It is worrisome to note that there are still about 7000 new HIV infections every year.

May I encourage all of you gathered here and across the country to know your HIV status in time then take the necessary action whatever result. If you test HIV positive, take ARVs, and if HIV negative, use all the options available for you to stay HIV negative. Young people you have the option to delay sex. This is the only way to avoid HIV infection. Let us refrain from the abuse of drugs and alcohol as these do not only make us vulnerable to HIV infection, but is a threat to our desired prosperous future.

Condoms are available for those who have started sex and ARVs are available for pregnant women who are HIV positive for them to give birth to uninfected babies. Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision is available for men to reduce the chances of getting infected with HIV.

Government is relentlessly supporting the delivery of HIV programmes, despite the current fiscal challenges. For example, Government has committed to procure all first line ARV’s for citizens to ensure availability and accessibility to all people who test HIV positive.   The ingenious adoption of ARVs has allowed people who are living with HIV to live longer and healthier lives. HIV in Eswatini is no longer a death sentence.

Enrolling all people who test HIV positive on ART, regardless of their CD4 count, has contributed to the significant reduction of new HIV infections by almost 50%, between 2011 and 2017. This has been a worthwhile investment that the Government continues to commit to with the knowledge that this life saving endeavor will contribute immensely to the epidemic control in this country.

It is also important to note that 75% of our population is HIV negative, therefore there is need to focus on preventing new infections to ensure that the negative status is maintained. We collectively need to reduce the number of people who get infected annually by 85% by 2022. This can be achieved if we work together as communities. The country has clearly articulated strategies on how this can be achieved in the National HIV and AIDS Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS 2018 – 2023, which is also referred to as the “The Last Mile”. 

Indeed, the ground has been leveled and I believe there is an enabling environment for the HIV response.

Recently the National HIV Prevention Policy was launched. The policy, together with other existing national guidelines ensures that all people, no matter their age, religion or sexual orientation can freely access all HIV services.

I am aware that during the World AIDS Campaign dialogues held in different regions, thoughts and ideas were shared on how we can intensify our goal towards ending AIDS in the country. I want to encourage the rest of us who did not attend these dialogues to continue to speak out and share ideas on steps to be taken to reduce HIV incidence, especially among adolescent girls and young women, who are most vulnerable to being newly infected with HIV. Your resourceful contribution will be used to strengthen the way current HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services are delivered. 

May I now take this time to honour all those people living with HIV who have taken an HIV test, have enrolled and adhered to treatment. Under the theme “Communities make the difference” I implore you, the community of people living with HIV, to support each and to adhere to treatment

Today let us all with one voice denounce all HIV related stigma and discrimination which is as devastating as the illness itself because it results in abandonment by a partner or family, failure to access medical services, and gender-based violence. These consequences mean that people will be less likely to come in for HIV testing, to disclose their HIV status, adopt positive HIV prevention behaviour or access treatment care and support, which retards the progress in the HIV response.   In our communities, be it at work or in our social groupings, let us embrace and support those who are living with HIV.

Finally, His Majesty’s Government would like to sincerely appreciate all our development and funding partners who continue to support the national response at all levels. Without your generous contributions, we would not have achieved the results that have changed the lives of Emaswati.  My appreciation also goes to the implementing partners. You are the foot soldiers that make things happen. Keep up the good work.

I thank you all. Siyabonga!

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