"You do not need to be a health expert to understand the challenge this country is facing when it comes to AIDS pandemic," the new minister Barbara Hogan told reporters, becoming visibly emotional as she spoke.
"It is critically important that those who need treatment are able to get it," said Hogan. "I am passionate about getting things right."
Hogan was sworn in a week ago to replace the controversial former health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who drew global criticism for championing garlic and beetroot to combat AIDS.
She was removed in a cabinet reshuffle last week following the axing of former president Thabo Mbeki, in a move hailed by AIDS activists.
Hogan, a political activist who served time in prison during apartheid, said she hoped to make a considerable contribution to South African health care before elections expected in about six months.
"The public expects our health services to be caring, compassionate and passionate," she said.
"We will as a matter of urgency, examine all the gaps in delivery, ranging from co-ordination between the different levels of government to improving management systems," she said.
South Africa has the world's highest rate of HIV with some 5.5 million of the 47 million population infected by the virus.