As the government intensifies the battle against HIV/Aids, Parliament has established a joint committee that will monitor whether the state is implementing the strategy to fight the disease.
ANC deputy chief whip in Parliament Bulelani Magwanishe said yesterday they were finalising details on the structure of the committee.
In its announcement yesterday, Parliament said the HIV/Aids committee would be co-chaired by MPs from the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces.
It would have 14 members with nine MPs coming from the National Assembly and five parliamentarians from the National Council of Provinces.
“The joint committee acts as an advisory, influencing and consultative body by monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the government’s strategy, policy and programmes on HIV and Aids,” Parliament stated.
The other role of the committee would be to make recommendations on any draft law, relating to HIV/Aids, to parliament.
The committee’s task would also be to drive the HIV/Aids agenda in all platforms in Parliament and other structures, linked to the field, outside the institution.
Parliament’s health committee chairperson, Monwabisi Boqwana, an ANC MP, said the establishment of the HIV/Aids committee was an indication by the government that it was serious in the fight against the disease.
He said that they had been toying with the idea of forming such a committee for some time but he was satisfied that it had eventually come to fruition.
“HIV/Aids is not a health issue, it’s a cross-cutting disease (affecting) all departments,” said Boqwana, adding that this joint committee would ensure that it monitored all sectors of society affected by the disease.
“We even have the South African National Aids Council, which has not been reporting to anybody. It will now be reporting to that committee,” he said.
“Since HIV is a cross-cutting disease it needs to be handled by a committee,” Boqwana added. DA MP and party spokesperson on health Mike Waters said they welcomed the formation of the HIV/Aids committee.
“We believe that it will give focus on the fight against HIV and Aids. We have been calling for it for quite a while,” said Waters.
He pointed out that the committee should have been set up a few years ago after Parliament passed a resolution giving its stamp of approval for its establishment.
IFP spokesperson for health Hilda Msweli said the committee could play a pivotal role in ensuring that the government increased the supply of antiretroviral drugs in hospitals and other healthcare centres.
Msweli lamented the fact that there were fewer nurses in public health centres to deal with the disease.
She hoped that the committee would push for the re-opening of nursing colleges as a matter of urgency. The committee would need to encourage more people to test their HIV status, she said, adding that it was the IFP’s desire to see to it that the education campaign on HIV/Aids be expanded.
Since the Jacob Zuma administration came into office in 2009 it has identified HIV/Aids as one of the key priorities of the government to reduce new infections and encourage testing.
Zuma’s government has been hailed across the broad spectrum of society of ending years of denialism and tackling the problem head on.