World AIDS Day targets men, youth

Friday, November 30, 2012

Pretoria - This year's World AIDS Day will focus on urging young people and men to get tested so they know their HIV status.

The national event, which will take place at Potchefstroom in North West on Saturday, will be held under the theme 'A re Dlale - Safe for Zero new HIV and TB infections'.

"We are trying to appeal to young people by making use of this theme that combines tsotsi taal, African Languages and English, because we really want our young people to play very safe for zero new infections," Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said on Thursday.

The global theme for World AIDS Day which was announced last year and will run till 2015, comprises of three messages, 'Zero New HIV infection, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS related deaths'. Dr Motsoaledi noted that South Africa has subscribed to the global World AIDS Day target of getting to Zero by 2015.

He said that through the new National Strategic Plan on HIV and AIDS, STIs and TB that runs from 2012 to 2016, government is hoping that every South African, including the youth, will develop a tendency to test at least once per annum.

During this year's World AIDS Day, Deputy President, Kgalema Motlanthe will be joined by Motsoaledi and the Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula, as the event aims to target sports.

He said they were concerned about older men and wanted to encourage them to get tested, therefore this year's main event will be celebrated through soccer.

Dr Motsoaledi added that from this year onwards, they will be running soccer matches in their campaigns and hoping that through soccer, men will be encouraged to go and get tested.

"We want to target Confederation of African Football (CAF) and we are happy that CAF, together with UNAIDS have agreed to work together to make sure that next year when the Afcon is in South Africa. One of the many events you'll see is the issue of HIV and AIDS. All soccer stars of the world will be supporting us," Dr Motsoaledi said.

In terms of people getting tested and wanting to know their status, he said 65% of them were women, 5% children and only 35% were men.

South African National Aids Council Chief Operations Officer, Reverend Zwo Nevhutalu stressed that this year's World AIDS Day would be about prevention. 

"If we don't put more effort on prevention, we might not be able to win the battle of HIV and AIDS," the minister said.

The campaigns will include testing to be done in malls, more activations messages in store fitting room, messages to cell phones, mobi sites and advertisements on buses.

The event on Saturday will kick off with a 4km walk followed by testing with the main event to be followed by a soccer match.

Reverend Nevhutalu also thanked the Premier Soccer League for allowing them to use the Telkom challenge which takes place in Durban, to send messages.

"Thousands of condoms would be distributed on the day and the testing sites will be stationed at the parameters of the stadium."

Government has exceeded the target of testing 15 million to 20 million people for HIV since the launch of the HIV, Counselling and Testing Campaign in April 2010.

In South Africa, over 1.9 million people are on treatment through government increasing the number of HIV treatment sites.

"In Feb 2010, there were only 490 testing sites. Today we now have 3000 facilities, which are well equipped in initiating HIV treatment. We have also increased the number of nurses who are certified and trained to initiate HIV treatment from 215 in February 2010 to 10 000 in April 2012. 

"We have also reduced the rate of Mother To Child Transmission, from 8% in 2008 to 3.5% in 2010 and down to 2.7% in 2011. Our Medical Male Circumcision Programme is also doing very well," Motsoaledi highlighted. -