South Africa will strengthen its role in the integrated response to the dual epidemics of HIV and TB, and the Covid-19 pandemic, and up-scale interventions to end HIV as a public health threat by 2030.
Deputy President David Mabuza was speaking in his capacity as chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council during his visit to Limpopo, where he led the official commemoration of World AIDS Day at Xikundu, with the aim to intensify the campaign in the fight against the diseases.
This year’s commemoration theme is “Working Together to End Inequalities, Aids, TB and Covid-19. Get Tested. Get Vaccinated. Adhere to Treatment”.
In June of this year, South Africa participated in the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Aids where world leaders made a commitment through a Political Declaration to end HIV/Aids and Inequalities in their respective countries.
“The theme also indicates that these three issues, namely, inequalities, HIV/Aids and pandemics are interlinked. It further implies that the objective of ending Aids must be considered in the context of a fairer and more equitable society with strengthened health systems and improved social security,” Mabuza said.
He encouraged everybody to get tested, not only for HIV, TB and Covid-19, but for non-communicable diseases as well.
Mabuza called for support for all those who test positive for any diseases, especially HIV and TB, and said treatment and care must be free from stigma and discrimination.
“Our fight is real for TB is a curable disease, and HIV is a manageable chronic condition and when those who have tested positive take the antiretroviral treatment properly, this improves the quality of life thereby ensuring that one enjoys a lifespan that is similar to that of an HIV negative person, especially if you start treatment early enough,” he said.
This year marks 40 years since the first cases of what later became known as HIV/Aids were officially reported. Since then, 75-million people worldwide have become infected with HIV and over 8-million of these cases are in South Africa. Over 33-million people across the world have since died from Aids-related illnesses since the start of the global Aids epidemic.
Mabuza also called for the up-scaling of efforts to screen, test and treat people at a community level to reach everyone, especially people with limited access to formal health systems.
“We need to equally scale up our prevention efforts across all levels of society, as this will be a deciding factor in our ability to curb the spread of the epidemic. It is for this reason that our actions count in realising our vision of an HIV-free generation in our lifetime. We recognise the important role of societal institutions such as family, cultural and religious sectors in the prevention of the global Aids epidemic and in treatment, care and support of those infected and affected,” he said.
He added that efforts to combat the pandemic cannot be achieved without the full cooperation of international partners.