The use of innovation and technology has been punted as the key tool to end the scourge of HIV and Aids in the country at the 9th South African Aids Conference.
Delivering the closing address at the conference on Friday, Deputy President David Mabuza said it was clear that if the country is to effectively tackle the epidemic, something drastic must be done.
“The theme of the conference is therefore appropriate that we must innovate and use technology at all levels to bring about sustainable change in our responses to HIV and Aids,” said the Deputy President.
The conference, which was organised under the theme: “Unprecedented Innovations and Technologies: HIV and Change” has become a biannual forum since the inaugural one in 2003.
The four-day conference at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban focused on the scientific, social and digital innovations or technologies which could assist with the control of the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
According to research done by the University of Cape Town there are approximately 7.4 million South Africans who are HIV positive.
The figure for people living with HIV that are on treatment is set at 4.9 million. Government plans to get another two million people on ARVs by December 2020.
Eliminate new infections
Mabuza noted that while the country’s comprehensive HIV response is hailed as a success, to make serious headway, it needs to prevent new infections of the virus.
It is estimated that there are around 250 000 new infections annually.
“Our target is to get below 100 000 new infections by December 2020. This gap is big and it must be closed,” said the Deputy President.
Address societal factors to HIV/Aids
Noting the multiple biological and societal factors that play a role in the transmission of the virus, Mabuza said a holistic approach to sexuality must be taken by government.
“Our responsibility as government, including parents, is to ensure that they are equipped with education in order to lead independent and productive lives. Empowerment of women is fundamental to transformation of society,” said the Deputy President.
While the empowerment of girls was highlighted, Mabuza noted that another area of concern is that the age of the first sexual debut amongst young boys is decreasing.
“This exposes them to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, as well as becoming fathers without any planning.
“Again, we need ensure that we nurture our young men to become responsible adults,” he said.
To ensure the sustainability of the flow of donor funding as well as efficient expenditure, Mabuza said provincial and district AIDS Councils must be strengthened.
“We acknowledge the advice from our experts such as Prof Abdool-Karim that our focus should be on delivery and implementation of programmes at the local and district levels,” said the Deputy President. – SAnews.gov.za