People of South Africa,

Today we mark World AIDS Day. As South Africans, we participate in the World AIDS Day events as part of our ongoing support for the Partnership Against AIDS campaign.

On this day, we must all join hands as people of South Africa and of the world against a silent killer that threatens our lives and the very fabric of our existence.

On this day, we must use this opportunity to make our family, our friends, our neighbours and our fellow South Africans conscious of the dangers that HIV/AIDS poses to every single person in our country and to the health and future of our entire nation.

We must urge all our youth to protect themselves at an early age and their loved ones against this disease by abstaining from sexualactivity as much as possible by being faithful to their partners or by always using a condom if they are sexually active.

To the youth of our country, we ask you, who are most vulnerable to this disease, to think about your future and the future of our children, before you become involved in a sexual relationship.

To the men of our country, we ask you to use a condom if you engage in a sexual relationship which has the potential of exposing you, your partner or your wife to the danger of HIV/AIDS, for using a condom is a sign of respect to your partner, not a sign of mistrust.

Together let us urge everyone in our nation to take responsibility for their own lives into their own hands in order to ensure that this killer disease is eradicated from our society. Every day we are burying more young people than ever before who have died because of AIDS.

Every day a child suffers and has to learn to fend for him or herself when a parent dies as a result of this disease. Every day, when someone, who is infected, dies, we lose a lifetime of skills and experiences; we suffer a blow to our economy that we have only just begun to rebuild.

I believe, therefore, that it is important for all of us to educate each other about the danger that HIV/AIDS poses to the socio-economic situation in our country. HIV/AIDS threatens to undermine our efforts to grow our economy and build a better life for all our people.

It kills those on whom our society relies to provide income through agriculture, through mining, in the factories, those who run our schools and our hospitals, those who govern our towns and provinces. It worsens the poverty pervasive in our society when parents who are breadwinners die.

People of our country,

Every day, more people die as a result of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa than anywhere else in the world.

Thus, as we enter the next century, the challenge of HIV/AIDS is still with us and it is the task of our present generation of Africans to meet this challenge, by focusing on ways of preventing the spread of this disease and by providing care to those who are infected.

There can be no talk of an African renaissance, if AIDS is at the door of our continent.

We must recognise that the scourge of HIV/AIDS cannot be dealt with by one country alone. It requires a collective global effort. The challenge is to seek ways to minimise its effects, to prepare for its impact and to co-operate in the finding of long-term solutions.

When the history of our time is written, let it record the collective efforts of our societies responding to a threat that put the future of entire nations in the balance. Let future generations judge us on the adequacy of our response.

To overcome the challenge that this disease poses, every one of us must play an active part. If you are a member of a church or non-governmental organisation or a school that does not as yet have an HIV/AIDS programme, see to it that you come together to draw up such a programme.

We must continue to break the silence and talk about this disease with openness. Those among us, who are infected, must be encouraged to tell others about their experiences. This will help to discourage the discrimination which they have institutions and places of work. Rejection of those who are suffering is not acceptable; and we as a nation must offer all the support we can to people living with HIV/AIDS.

People of South Africa,

As we join hands in a Partnership Against AIDS, we must believe in our capacity to succeed in our struggle to stop the spread of this disease.

We must build the Partnership Against AIDS so that it unites every community in our country into a dynamic force for changing people's mindsets and behaviours.

Government welcomes the initiatives that are being taken by the business community and the entire private sector, women's groups, youth and student groups, the religious community, sporting organisations and the many non-governmental organisations to strengthen this partnership.

As we join hands today, let us create a truly caring and humane partnership for health and prosperity for this will strengthen our efforts in shaping the next century as our African century.

I thank you.