We can win against HIV, con­domise

Sunday Tribune - - OPINION -

YES­TER­DAY was the day that the world lit a can­dle in re­mem­brance of those who lost their lives to the scourge. We lit a can­dle in prayer for the peo­ple who are liv­ing with HIV and shone a light to coura­geous fam­i­lies, friends who are sup­port­ing those af­fected and those in­fected by the dis­ease.

World Aids Day re­minds us of our vul­ner­a­bil­ity as hu­mans and how when we stand to­gether, we have a big­ger and bet­ter chance – us­ing re­search in sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy – to over­come any hu­man catas­tro­phe in­clud­ing dis­eases.

A lot has been done sci­en­tif­i­cally since the first study in 1981 iso­lated the virus and paved the way for the ARVS that have con­trib­uted im­mensely to the stem­ming of the tide of mil­lions of deaths through­out the world, es­pe­cially in Africa.

To­day many peo­ple with HIV are liv­ing healthy and nor­mal lives and this is a re­mark­able feat for a coun­try like South Africa, where more than 7 mil­lion are in­fected with the virus.

Ours is a coun­try with the largest treat­ment pro­gramme in the world, be­cause our in­fec­tion rate has al­most dou­bled in 15 years – from over 4 mil­lion in 2002 to the stag­ger­ing 7 mil­lion in 2018. Af­ter much bick­er­ing, our gov­ern­ment took the bold step of sup­port­ing and fund­ing the big­gest treat­ment pro­gramme in the world. How­ever, what should keep us awake at night is that, in spite of aware­ness cam­paigns and pro­grammes, we still have one of the high­est in­fec­tion rates in the world and ARVS can­not solve that.

This means that mes­sages that are churned out of tele­vi­sion, ra­dio, print and so­cial me­dia are not get­ting through to our peo­ple, es­pe­cially our youth, where the high­est num­ber of in­fec­tions are oc­cur­ring. As we marked the 30th An­niver­sary of World Aids Day with this year’s theme be­ing “Know Your Sta­tus” we as South Africans, need to get ag­gres­sive in send­ing mes­sages out that we can­not af­ford to be com­pla­cent about HIV.

We need to be em­phatic and speak with one voice that it’s only through ab­sti­nence or con­domis­ing that the war on HIV will be con­quered. If we don’t do that, there is a pos­si­bil­ity that 30 years from now, half the pop­u­la­tion could be in­fected with the virus if a cure is not found sooner. Once we are there, rolling out ARV will be a costly but un­sus­tain­able pro­ject.

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