In a landmark speech, President Jacob Zuma has acknowledged the devastating impact that AIDS is having on South African society. Addressing the National Council of Provinces on 29 October 2009, Zuma cited statistics from various agencies which, he said, "paint a disturbing picture of the health of our nation".
In marked contrast to Mbeki’s approach, Zuma did not shy away from the scale of the problem or the urgency of a unified, national response. Zuma admitted that, despite past efforts, "we are not yet winning this battle". Equally clear was his resolve to address the issue, arguing that "we need to move with urgency and purpose to confront this enormous challenge".
Zuma also emphasized the importance of HIV/AIDS education, testing, and addressing the stigma associated with the epidemic. It was particularly important, he said, that "our people must be armed with information".
In the speech Zuma recommitted his government to achieving the targets of a 50% reduction of the rate of new infections and an extension of the antiretroviral programme to 80% of those in need. The deadline for reaching both these targets is 2011.