As the world commemorated the 31st World Aids Day yesterday, there was a call to recognise the power of community action in the fight against the virus.
Deputy president David Mabuza said the call to action was about recognising the power of community action, even in the face of numerous other social challenges, such as unemployment, poverty and inequality.
“We should not despair, instead we must be inspired to find innovative solutions to ending these challenges, including ending the Aids epidemic in our lifetime,” he said.
Mabuza was speaking at the World Aids Day event held at the James Motlatsi Stadium in Orkney, North West.
“For us to end the dual pandemics of HIV and TB, communities must stop stigmatising and discriminating against those affected and infected by these pandemics.
“Our call for community action to make a difference is about mobilising our societies to change social attitudes and norms, some of whom are a product of our socialisation,” he said.
Mabuza said SA had the biggest HIV treatment programme in the world with more than 4.5m people on life-saving antiretrovirals.
“Our anti-retroviral treatment programme has resulted in an increase in the life
expectancy of our people and low levels of mother-to-child HIV transmission rates.
“This means that millions of South Africans who previously had no hope of a sustained quality of life, now live longer and are able to contribute in building a SA of our dreams,” he said.
Speaking at the Kagiso memorial and recreation centre in West Rand, human settlements MEC Lebogang Maile said World Aids Day creates an opportunity for communities to unite in the fight against HIV.
“Nationally, 26% of people living with HIV come from Gauteng, as a result it is critical that the focus for World Aids Day 2019 be in communities. However, the key challenge is reaching out to the youth.
“The highest HIV incidence rates are found in young women of 15 to 24 years,” he said.
Maile said about 600 young women are infected with HIV each week in Gauteng.
Members of Grace Bible Church had a 2,4km prayer walk around Constitution Hill in Johannesburg.
Church leader Bishop Mosa Sono said their aim was to bring healing as a church.
“We want to pledge as the church that we won’t sit aside as spectators, but we will be actively involved in trying to bring resolutions to our communities.
“We are aware of what Aids has done to our communities and we say to those people who are infected they should seek help.
“We also appeal to people to take precaution not to expose themselves to contracting HIV/Aids,” said Sono.
Parliament’s presiding officers led by National Assembly speaker Thandi Modise
and the chairperson of the National Council of Provinces Amos Masondo also joined South Africans in commemorating the day.
They encouraged all South Africans to continuously check their health status, to be active citizens and to show compassion to all.
“This day calls on all of us to strongly unite in the fight against the spread of HIV/Aids.
“It is a reminder to deepen our work within the communities we live in and be active citizens by engaging in various tasks that will ultimately lead to meaningful contributions towards eradicating the epidemic,” said parliament in a statement.
ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe said the number of Aids-related deaths have been declining consistently since 2007.
“Indeed, SA has come a long way in the fight against HIV and Aids. Let us take the fight against this scourge to the school yards, factory floor, churches, boardroom, sport fields and every street and corner if we are to completely turn the tide and emerge victorious,” said Mabe.