BY ASHLEY MALEPE
Founded in the year 1988, world’s AIDS day was the first international day commemorating global health and creating awareness around HIV. Today marks a 32-year mile celebrating world AIDS day annually on the 1st of every December and this year’s theme is Global solidarity, shared responsibility.
There over seven million people living with HIV in South Africa and currently the country has the biggest HIV epidemic in the world. Prevalence amongst the general public is sitting at 20.4%, even higher among men that have sex with other men, people who inject drugs, transgender women, and sex workers. UNAIDS stated in 2018 that 10% of the South African population that are infected with HIV do not know that they have it. However, the country has recorded notable improvements in getting people testing for HIV in the past few years.
South Africa has the world’s largest antiretroviral treatment (ART) programme. This has been largely financed from its own domestic resources: in 2017, the country was investing over 230 billion rands annually to run its HIV programmes. The ART programme, which has undergone further expansion with the implementation of ‘test and treat’ guidelines has dramatically been improved in the recent years.
The country has been trying to improve and reduce HIV transmission. “The government plans to achieve this by intensifying prevention efforts in the 27 districts that account for 82% of all people living with HIV and for the majority of new infections. It has also committed to achieving zero new infections due to mother-to-child transmission by 2022,” UNAIDS.
Ways the country is trying to improve the spread of HIV include:
- Prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) – reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV by offering a choice of antiretroviral medicines to mothers and increasing the accessibility of medication.
- Condom use and distribution – free condom distribution at clinics and places where it can be easily accessed by everyone.
- Voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) – offering free male circumcision which potentially can reduce the risk of transmissions.
- Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) – medication or treatment plan offered to those at risk of contracting the virus or have been exposed to the virus.
- HIV awareness – offer comprehensive education to young people mostly as it is most prevalent in young people and then to the general public.
- HIV education – intensifying campaigns such as lovelife, MTVShuga etc.
World AIDS Day remains as relevant today as it’s always been, reminding people and governments that HIV has not gone away. There is still a critical need for increased funding for the AIDS response, to increase awareness of the impact of HIV on people’s lives, to end stigma and discrimination and to improve the quality of life of people living with HIV.