Nurses are important pillars in the national effort to build an Aids-free country by 2030, says South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Commending the role nurses have played in fighting HIV/AIDS as the Democratic Nursing Organization of South Africa (Denosa) celebrated its 20th anniversary Monday, he said: “The nursing profession has been at the forefront of the major turnaround in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

“As we speak, our nurses are implementing the World Health Organization’s new Universal Test and Treat guidelines. Because of your devotion, we are confident that by 2020 we will reach no less than 90 per cent of all people infected with HIV and TB (tuberculosis) and initiate them on treatment.

“Our vision of an AIDS-free world by 2030 depends greatly on you. I do not believe that we will be able to reach an Aids free South Africa without your participation, contribution and commitment.”

Ramaphosa added that in order to reduce the alarmingly high levels of new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women aged between 15 and 24, health facilities must be sites of empowerment, where young people feel comfortable.

“We must provide those who are engaging in sexual activity with condoms to protect themselves and to prevent unwanted pregnancies. We must encourage men to circumcise and condomise. We must provide them with information and advice.”

The Deputy President said the challenges that hinder the improvement of working and living conditions for nurses must be openly confronted. “We must find lasting solutions to safety risks, severe shortages of staff, long hours of work and low morale, which impact not only on our nurses, but also on the quality of care that patients ultimately receive,” he added.

“We urge all stakeholders to work together to address outstanding issues on the occupation-specific dispensation and other matters of concern to nurses. As national government, we are committed to meeting our obligations and fulfilling our responsibilities.”