By Joshua Motsomane
South Africa marks the 23rd anniversary of World AIDS Day by unveiling the new HIV and AIDS, STI and TB (HAST) National Strategic Plan (NSP) 2012-2016.
The NSP sets out the strategic priorities for dealing with the dual epidemics of HIV and TB in South Africa. It is a culmination of extensive consultation with a range of stakeholders, driven by the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC).
The global theme for the World AIDS Day Campaign is “Getting to Zero”, which echoes the UNAIDS’ vision of achieving “Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths”. This theme seeks to encourage individuals and communities to have non-discriminatory and non-judgmental access to adequate HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and tuberculosis (TB) prevention, treatment, care and support.
The world Aids day was celebrated at Swartklip Rugby stadium, the mine workers and community at large were given chance to test voluntarily (VCT).
World AIDS Day is the longest-running international health commemorative day. “Today we join millions of people across the globe to mark World AIDS Day. We join multitudes who have determined that this epidemic cannot be overcome without a concerted and coordinated effort,” said Mayor Patricia Mosito in her address.
“We join millions who understand that the epidemic is not merely a health challenge. It is a challenge with profound social, cultural and economic consequences. It is an epidemic that affects the entire nations. Yet it touches on matters that are intensely personal and private.”
“Unlike many others, HIV and AIDS cannot be overcome simply by improving the quality of drinking water, or eradicating mosquitoes, or mass immunization.
It can only be overcome by individuals taking responsibility for their own lives and the lives of those around them. In every sector of society, there are individuals and groups who have worked tirelessly to educate, advocate, care, treat, prevent and to break the stigma that still surrounds the epidemic.
Today, we wish to acknowledge their dedicated efforts. We know that the situation is serious. We have seen the statistics. We know that the average life expectancy of South Africans has been falling, and that South Africans are dying at a young age.
We have seen the child-headed and granny-headed households, and have witnessed the pain and displacement of orphans and vulnerable children. These facts are undeniable. We should not be tempted to downplay the statistics and impact or to deny the reality that we face,” said Mosito. At the same time, the epidemic is not about statistics. It is about people, about families, and communities. It is about our loved ones.
“For many families, it is a burden that they have to bear alone, fearful of discrimination and stigma. Now is not the time to lament. It is the time to act decisively, and to act together.
Our message is simple. We have to stop the spread of HIV. We must reduce the rate of new infections. Prevention is our most powerful weapon against the epidemic. I need to re-emphasize at this point that we must intensify our prevention efforts if we are to turn off the tap of new HIV and TB infections. Prevention is our most powerful and effective weapon.
We have to overcome HIV the same way that it spreads – one individual at a time. We have to really show that all of us are responsible. As we know that prevention is better than cure, Abstain, Be faithful and Condomise (ABC).
The HIV tests are voluntary and they are confidential. We know that it is not easy. It is a difficult decision to take. But it is a decision that must be taken by people from all walks of life, of all races, all social classes and all positions in society. HIV does not discriminate.”
All South Africans should take steps to ensure that they do not become infected, that they do not infect others and that they know their status, because through the infected we have the affected.
Each individual must take responsibility for protection against HIV. To the youth, the future belongs to you. Parents and heads of households let us be open with our children and educate them about HIV and how to prevent it. Let’s talk robustly about unsafe sex.
“Be responsible and do not expose yourself to risks,” said Mr Phillip Schoeman. His sentiments were echoed by the unions’ representatives.
“At another moment in our history, in another context, the liberation movement observed that the time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices: submit or fight. Let this be the start of an era of openness, of taking personal responsibility, and of working together in unity to prevent HIV infections and to deal with its impact,” concluded Mayor Mosito. The event was attended by mine workers, councillors, community leaders and the management from the mine.