The co-existence
of the tuberculosis and HIV epidemics, and improving the quality of
services, were two of the many challenges facing the Health Department,
newly appointed minister Barbara Hogan said yesterday.

Briefing the media in Pretoria for the first time since her
appointment, Hogan said she could not give a concrete plan on how to
address these challenges as she did not believe in “sound bytes”.

“I want to avoid quick-fix promises and quick-fix solutions. I think
people want to see evidence of what we’re doing, not just talking.”

She was teary eyed when she spoke of the privilege and honour to assist those suffering with HIV/Aids.

“My goodness, to be given that privilege to actually help, is a gift
that I am really grateful for. Certainly, it’s disrupted my life,
certainly there’s heartache about it – there’s other things I wanted to

Hogan said that she planned
to retire from Parliament and reclaim her personal life, but the plight
of those who suffered compelled her to accept the appointment.

“I think we underestimate the heroism of the people who live with this kind of burden.”

Hogan said she was aware of the huge task that faced her department,
but she was confident that it could address the challenges. Her newly
appointed deputy minister, Molefi Sefularo, said he felt Hogan’s
appointment was correct, despite her not having any formal medical

He said many of the
problems had to do with the systems in place, management, human
resources and finance, and that Hogan’s background in economics was
ideally suited.

“It’s good to have
the minister at the helm,” he said, adding that often medical
professionals were drawn into the details of molecules and injections.

Hogan said she felt there was an advantage in not being a health
professional, but that her strength was that she was street-wise.

“I don’t think you have to be a health professional to know what problems are”.

Hogan said she did not believe there would be a shift in policy regarding HIV/Aids. However it would be looked at.

She said the good work of the SA National Aids Council, under the
leadership of former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo- Ngcuka, must be
recognised and she had no doubt that it would continue.

adoption of the National Strategic Plan and Aids and TB and the
restructuring of Sanac has been a major turning point in our response
to HIV and Aids and TB in our country.”

said through a comprehensive plan, the department had initiated the
largest number of people on antiretroviral treatment globally and yet
still millions of people were afflicted by HIV/Aids directly or

However she maintained that health was a “heart issue” and she did not want to engage in any political games.