Win­ning the fight against HIV and AIDS

Public Sector Manager - - Message From The Minister -

World AIDS Day on 1 De­cem­ber turned the fo­cus to one of the world's most de­struc­tive diseases. The HIV and AIDS pan­demic has taken a heavy toll on all as­pects of so­ci­ety, claim­ing the lives of mil­lions of men, women and chil­dren.

It has al­ways been con­cern­ing to note that our coun­try suf­fers from one of the high­est HIV and AIDS rates in the world. An es­ti­mated

7.2 mil­lion South Africans (in­clud­ing around 18 per­cent of peo­ple be­tween the ages of 15 and 49) are liv­ing with HIV.

Although th­ese fig­ures are trou­bling, it is en­cour­ag­ing to see that they are vastly im­proved from those of a decade ago.The wide­spread ef­forts to ad­dress this grave threat are steadily bear­ing fruit, as we strive for a so­ci­ety free from the bur­dens of HIV and AIDS.

Gov­ern­ment bud­gets for HIV and AIDS pro­grammes have in­creased steadily as we seek to in­ten­sify this fight. As set out in our com­pre­hen­sive Na­tional Strate­gic Plan, a to­tal of R78 bil­lion has been set aside for such pro­grammes be­tween 2017 and 2022.

Na­tion­wide test­ing pro­grammes have been rapidly ex­pand­ing over the years. In 2017, we reached our tar­get of 90 per­cent of peo­ple liv­ing with HIV be­ing aware of their sta­tus, com­pared to 66.2 per­cent in 2014. It is im­por­tant that all South Africans know their HIV sta­tus and pub­lic ser­vants should lead by ex­am­ple by reg­u­larly get­ting tested and en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers to fol­low suit.

The num­ber of peo­ple re­ceiv­ing life-sav­ing an­tiretro­vi­ral (ARV) treat­ment has risen from 616 000 in 2009 to 3.9 mil­lion by 2016.

This makes our ARV treat­ment pro­gramme the largest in the world – big­ger than the size of In­dia, Zim­babwe, Kenya and Mozam­bique's pro­grammes com­bined. This es­sen­tial treat­ment al­lows mil­lions of HIV-pos­i­tive South Africans to lead nor­mal lives.

In 2015, we be­came the first coun­try in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa to ap­prove pre-ex­po­sure pro­phy­laxis (PrEP), the use of an­tiretro­vi­ral drugs to pro­tect HIV-neg­a­tive peo­ple from in­fec­tion.

Thanks to ini­tia­tives such as year-round aware­ness cam­paigns, dis­tri­bu­tion of free con­tra­cep­tives, the pre­ven­tion of mother-tochild trans­mis­sion pro­gramme and the vol­un­tary med­i­cal male cir­cum­ci­sion pro­gramme, the num­ber of new in­fec­tions has dropped dras­ti­cally. Over the past five years, new in­fec­tions have dropped by 44 per­cent.

Pub­lic ser­vants are the face of gov­ern­ment and when it comes to ini­tia­tives to curb HIV and AIDS, they must be at the fore front. This re­quires them to both be in­formed and lead by ex­am­ple. I there­fore call on all pub­lic ser­vants to en­sure they en­gage in re­spon­si­ble sex­ual be­hav­iour, fight the stigma at­tached to HIV and AIDS, and of­fer com­fort and en­cour­age­ment to those who are fight­ing the scourge.

A united ef­fort is es­sen­tial in deal­ing with HIV and AIDS. We are there­fore eter­nally grate­ful to the more than 100 000 non­govern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions in South Africa work­ing to­wards rais­ing HIV aware­ness, pro­vid­ing sup­port to vic­tims and bol­ster­ing gov­ern­ment's many pro­grammes.

Min­is­ter of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Stella Nd­abeni-Abrahams.

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