Jacob Zuma: Aids is killing our people but working together we can fight back

We need extraordinary measures to reverse the trends we are seeing in the health profile of our people. We know that the situation is serious. We have seen the statistics. We know that the average life expectancy of South Africans has been falling, and that South Africans are dying at a young age. We have seen the child-headed and granny-headed households, and have witnessed the pain and displacement of orphans and vulnerable children.

These facts are undeniable. We should not be tempted to downplay the statistics and impact or to deny the reality that we face. We have to overcome HIV the same way that it spreads – one individual at a time. We have to really show that all of us are responsible.

The HIV tests are voluntary and they are confidential. We know that it is not easy. It is a difficult decision to take. But it is a decision that must be taken by people from all walks of life, of all races, all social classes, all positions in society. HIV does not discriminate. I am making arrangements for my own test. I have taken HIV tests before, and I know my status. I will do another test soon as part of this new campaign. I urge you to start planning for your own tests.

At another moment in our history, in another context, the liberation movement observed that the time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices: submit or fight. That time has now come in our struggle to overcome Aids. We have no choice but to deploy every effort, mobilise every resource, and utilise every skill that our nation possesses, to ensure that we prevail in this struggle for the health and prosperity of our nation.

History has demonstrated the strength of a nation united and determined. We are a capable, innovative and motivated people. Together we fought and defeated a system so corrupt and reviled that it was described as a crime against humanity.

Let this be the start of an era of openness, of taking personal responsibility, and of working together in unity to prevent HIV infections and to deal with its impact. Working together, we can achieve these goals.

Taken from the South African President's speech at the Pretoria Showgrounds yesterday, to mark World Aids day