Deputy President David Mabuza has called on communities to end the stigma of HIV and discrimination against people infected with the virus.
Speaking on World Aids Day in Klerksdorp in the North West on Sunday, Mabuza emphasised the power of communities to fight against the scourge of Aids in South Africa.
Mabuza said a lot of progress has been made but added that the programme on prevention must be intensified by employing every method possible to end the epidemic.
“We must tackle head-on all contributing factors to new infections. This includes talking openly and frankly to our young people on issues of sexuality and resultant risks of unprotected sex to potential infections and teenage pregnancies, Mabuza said.
“This fight should be led from the front.
“The call to action on this 2019 World Aids Day is about recognising the power of community action, even in the face of other numerous social challenges like unemployment, poverty and inequality.”
The deputy president said the community should be creating platforms for collaborative approaches to advance human rights for all.
“It should be communities making a difference in ending the stigma and discrimination against key populations and those infected by HIV and TB.
“Our call for community action to make a difference, is about mobilising our societies to change social attitudes and norms, some of whom are the product of our socialisation.”
Mabuza also took the opportunity to touch on gender-based violence.
“These are social attitudes that are at the heart of the ills we are experiencing today, which breed and perpetuate gender-based violence that is being visited upon women, girl-children, the elderly and other key populations,” Mabuza added.
“We must leave no one behind – for human rights must be enjoyed by all irrespective of gender and sexual orientation. Just as we fight to end AIDS epidemic, so we should with equal determination fight to end the culture of gender-based violence.
“It is a bad mark to our democracy and freedoms. Anything contrary, undermines our fight to end the Aids epidemic.”
Mabuza conceded that the journey has been long and difficult, adding that there was a time where losing someone to an Aids-related illness was a common phenomenon every week, in every community.
Speaking about successes, Mabuza said South Africa had the biggest HIV treatment programme in the world, “with more than 4.5m people on life-saving anti-retrovirals”.
“Our anti-retroviral treatment programme has resulted in an increase in 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 sustained quality of life, now live longer and are able to contribute to building a South Africa of our dreams.”
“We have made major progress on voluntary male medical circumcision as an area of prevention, where close to 4m men were circumcised as at the end of March 2019,” Mabuza said.