SA makes progress in fight against HIV

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

South Africa has made progress in ensuring that people know their HIV status, says Deputy President David Mabuza.

“As a country, we have made great strides in meeting the first target of ensuring that people know their HIV status. At present, 92 percent of people living with HIV know their status. Of course, there are provinces that are doing better than others, but in general, South Africans are testing and this behaviour needs to be encouraged and maintained,” he said.

In his capacity as Chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), the Deputy President on Tuesday delivered a keynote address during the World AIDS Day commemoration event in Soweto.

He used this opportunity to provide an update on the country’s progress against 90-90-90 targets, and shared preliminary findings on the impact of COVID-19 on HIV and Tuberculosis (TB) services.

The 90-90-90 targets were introduced by the United Nation’s programme on HIV/AIDS to help end the AIDS epidemic.

The idea is that by 2020, 90% of people who are HIV infected will be diagnosed, 90% of people who are diagnosed will be on antiretroviral treatment and 90% of those who receive antiretrovirals will be virally suppressed.

“We have ensured that 73% of people diagnosed with HIV, receive sustained anti-retroviral treatment. Therefore, the country has a treatment gap of 17%. We are encouraged that our country’s performance to reach a 90 percent viral suppression level stands at 88%,” Mabuza said.

He said as South Africa records these successes, the country needs to remain focused and initiate more people on treatment, as well as make sure that they stay on treatment and are virally suppressed.

“It is important that HIV-infected people start treatment and stay on treatment in order to limit transmission and the rate of new infections. Together we can do this.

“Together as a country we can reach the remaining two 90-90 targets, and ensure that HIV and TB are turned from perceived death sentences into a manageable and treatable diseases,” the Deputy President said.

Thembisa model

He said government is encouraged by the recently released Thembisa, which is a leading mathematical model of HIV in South Africa.

According to this model, most provinces are making progress in the attainment of the 90-90-90 targets, with KwaZulu-Natal leading.

“Together, we need to build on this progress and accelerate our efforts. Most importantly, as government we remain committed to address concurrently HIV, TB and COVID-19.

“Our programmes and resources are dedicated to respond in equal fashion to these multiple health conditions, along with non-communicable diseases, without sacrificing one for the other. By taking this approach, we will be able to rationalise the scarce resources and improve efficiencies, without one problem undermining the other,” the Deputy President said.

Ensuring success

He said the setbacks encountered towards fully reaching the 90-90-90 can be corrected.

“We can be back on track to end HIV/AIDS by 2030 by doing the basics right, which include dispensing multi-month HIV medicine in primary healthcare facilities. We must ensure that front-line workers like nurses and midwives, are protected and given the requisite safety equipment to be effective in their work,” Mabuza said.

Since the launch of the current National Strategic Plan, government has been working with provinces and the districts to build the capacity of the AIDS Councils to effectively lead the coordination and implementation of the strategic plan.

“We are encouraged that all nine Provincial Councils on AIDS are up and running. We applaud all the Premiers who have committed to providing leadership of the AIDS Councils and are leading from the front. We urge the Premiers and District Mayors to ensure that their Provincial and District Councils on AIDS are functional.

“We will not succeed in our response without the full commitment and participation of leaders at all levels,” he said.

Gender-Based Violence

With the commemorations of World AIDS day coinciding with the 16 Days of Activism campaign, the Deputy President said it is critical for South Africa to decisively address gender-based violence and femicide, inequality as well as insecurity.

“Together, we must fight the scourge of violence against women and children. Partnerships with our communities, and accountable leadership among all our social partners, are vital to recommit to building social cohesion and moral regeneration in the family, at schools, and in places of work,” Mabuza said.

He said partnerships and leadership are needed to address patriarchy and toxic masculinity that fuel gender-based violence and sexually transmitted infections.

“Rebuilding social cohesion is critical not only in HIV prevention but in the elimination of violence against women, children and key populations,” the Deputy President said.

Know your status

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize encouraged South Africans to get tested for HIV.

“Anyone who still does not know their HIV status is encouraged to test for HIV and Tuberculosis. I would also like to challenge you to call on your sexual partners, friends and family members to get tested and to support and embrace those who are initiated on treatment,” he said.

The Minister said South Africa continues to expand Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) at public facilities.

“This is a pill taken daily orally to prevent the acquisition HIV for everyone at substantial risks of acquiring HIV.”

“In addition to PrEP and condoms, our public health facilities continue to provide the services for other sexually reproductive health and rights interventions such as contraceptives, antenatal care, and termination of pregnancy and for men we provide circumcision free in facilities and selected sites,” Mkhize said.

According to research, men that are circumcised are less likely to contract HIV by 60%. –

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