We can win against HIV, condomise
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.