South Africans to fight HIV

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Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on South Africans to fight against prejudice, stigma and discrimination against those infected and affected by HIV.

“Like racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of intolerance, the stigmatisation of HIV is driven by ignorance and fear. We need to work to overcome ignorance and address fear,” Deputy President Ramaphosa said.

Speaking at the World Aids Day commemoration in Welkom on Monday, he said stigma and discrimination can have a devastating effect on the lives of people living with HIV and on those closest to them.

“It also undermines our efforts to tackle the epidemic. People are reluctant to test for HIV, to disclose their status or to access treatment, care and support,” Deputy President Ramaphosa said.

World Aids Day is commemorated each year on 1 December and is an opportunity for every community to unite in the fight against HIV, show support for people living with HIV and remember those who have died.

The UNAIDS World Aids Day theme for 2011 to 2015 is “Getting to Zero”. The theme for South Africa this year is “Zero Stigma, Zero Discrimination”.

The aim of this campaign is to ensure that the rights of people living with HIV and Aids are not violated and that discrimination on the basis of HIV, Aids and TB is reduced and ultimately eliminated.

Deputy President Ramaphosa said stigma and discrimination was irrational, hurtful and unacceptable.

“While HIV has had an unprecedented impact on global health, it is like any other disease. There should be no shame and no blame,” he said.

Deputy President Ramaphosa said the South African National Aids Council (SANAC) Secretariat, working with the sector of People Living HIV and the Human Sciences Research Council, is conducting a survey to gauge the levels and identify the forms of stigma in South Africa.

“While we know that stigma exists in South Africa, the survey will help us understand it better and identify areas for intervention,” he said.

More than 6.4 million people are living with HIV in South Africa. Each year, there are about 400 000 new HIV infections.

Deputy President Ramaphosa encouraged South Africans to test for HIV and screen for TB annually.

“We are concerned about the number of South Africans who do not know their HIV status. A recent survey estimated that two million South Africans, who are living with HIV, do not know their status,” Deputy President Ramaphosa said.

In the next two years South Africa will use $54 million funding from the Global Fund to fight against TB and HIV.

The money will be spent on improving TB and HIV services to 500 000 mineworkers and 600 000 people living in six peri-mining communities.

The funds will also be used to strengthen services in correctional facilities and strengthen multi-drug resistance TB services in all 52 health districts. –