Mashatile rallies communities to be involved in HIV interventions

Mashatile rallies communities to be involved in HIV interventions

South Africa – Deputy President Paul Mashatile has called on communities to actively participate in interventions to combat stigma, discrimination, and human rights violations affecting people living and affected by HIV/AIDS .

“History demonstrates that when communities unite, any challenge can be overcome .

Our combined strengths can help us achieve the goal of eliminating HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis as public health threats,” he said on Friday .

The Deputy President was speaking at the official commemoration of World AIDS Day as Chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) .

The event was held in Mandeni in KwaZulu-Natal .

He described the 1 December as an opportunity to strengthen unity to fight against HIV, support those living with HIV, and remember those who succumbed to AIDS-related illnesses .

“Our combined strengths can help us achieve the goal of eliminating HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis as public health threats .

The Deputy President believes active civil society has also led to significant progress in the prevention, treatment, care, support, and outreach for the vulnerable .

“An additional area that necessitates strong oversight from civil society is the pervasive problem of gender-based violence and femicide, the correlation of which is universally recognised with HIV .

However, he said he was encouraged by the Takuwani Riime Men’s Movement for its commitment to establish the men’s community parliaments in every village, township, suburb, and community in South Africa .

“This movement seeks to mobilise men and boys to stand up and be counted in the country’s efforts against mental health in men, gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF), new HIV infections, and toxic masculinity, and for men to be drivers of the positive socialisation of the boy child .

He also rallied communities to hold hands with government to eradicate patriarchy, economic inequality, insensitive social norms, and harmful cultural practices .

Gender-based violence, according the Deputy President, was detrimental to the state’s efforts towards the achievement of the global Sustainable Development Goals and National Development Plan .

He also touched on the recently published sixth South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence, and Behavioural Survey by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) .

The research found that 7 .

8 million people are living with HIV in South Africa, a decrease from 14% in 2017 to 12 .

7% in 2022 .

“While the results clearly show that the prevalence of HIV is declining, there are some worrying patterns regarding the age group between 25 and 49 years .

Meanwhile, among females, HIV prevalence was highest in ages 35 to 39 years at 34 .

2% compared to 27 .

1% in males aged 45 to 49 years .

The country’s second-in-command also raised concerns about the increased incidence of HIV infection among girls between 15 to 19 years old .

“It is an indication that older men engage in unprotected sexual activities with girls and young women .

 We must take extraordinary measures as a society to protect kids against immoral predators .

We must ensure that children have a safe environment to discuss the issues influencing their sexual conduct and the pressures they are under .

“We must stand with them and educate them about their rights and sexual health,” he stressed .

Government is also worried about the lack of access to treatment by HIV-positive children, young people, and men .

The survey indicated that among those aged 15 and older living with HIV in South Africa in 2022, 90% were aware of their status, 91% of those aware of their status were on antiretroviral treatment (ART) and 94% of those on ART were virally suppressed .

He told the community the state’s primary objective as a government is to integrate all facets of an individual’s healthcare into a unified system, ensuring that everyone consistently gets quality medical care .

“Another game-changer in our progressive treatment literacy efforts is the integration of the undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U) concept into our policy framework .

This means that if a person takes their treatment consistently without fail, they will achieve ongoing viral suppression until the level of the virus drops to below 50 copies per millilitre .

“However, we advocate for safe sex since being undetectable will not prevent you from passing on a sexually transmitted infection to your partner or having an unplanned pregnancy .

Shifting his focus on stigma and prejudice, he said this can be as traumatic as the illness itself .

This, he said, could lead to partner or family rejection, social marginalisation, school expulsion, denial of medical services, a lack of care and support, and violence .

“We encourage our community leaders to engage our communities in order to alter societal attitudes and customs, some of which are influenced by our upbringing .

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