HIV and Aids thrive on stigma – Ramaphosa

2014-12-01 17:27

Stigma and discrimination against those living with HIV and Aids persists, says Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“This can have a devastating effect on the lives of people living with HIV and on those closest to them,” he said at a World Aids Day event in Welkom, in the Free State today.

“It also undermines our efforts to tackle the epidemic.”

It was because of this that people were reluctant to be tested and to disclose their status to access treatment, care and support.

Efforts to fight against prejudice, stigma and discrimination needed to be redoubled.

“Like racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of intolerance, the stigmatisation of HIV is driven by ignorance and fear,” said Ramaphosa.

Despite the decline in the incidence of HIV there was a significant number of new infections every day.

A quarter of these were in women between the ages of 15 and 24.

Ramaphosa said more needed to be done to promote prevention, as it was within the power of the individual.

“Everyone, especially young people, should use condoms consistently, stick to one sexual partner and delay the age at which they first have sex,” he said.

“All leaders – whether in government, the religious sector, traditional leadership or business – need to speak about safer sex practices.”

Ramaphosa said government was concerned about the number of people who did not know their HIV status.

Referring to a recent survey, he said about two million South Africans were living with HIV but did not know their status, which meant they were not getting the medical help they needed or protecting their partners.

“We must ensure that every South African tests for HIV and is screened for TB [Tuberculosis] annually.”

“Despite the progress that we have made in the past five years, the end of Aids is not as near as we would like,” said Ramaphosa.

At the International Aids Conference in Australia earlier this year a global target was announced.

These were the 90, 90, 90 targets.

This meant the country needed to test 90% of people for HIV, put 90% of those on treatment and ensure 90% of those on treatment were virally suppressed by 2030, he said.

Reaching this target was affordable over the mid-term.

However, a major barrier to achieving these targets was the stigma which still existed in the country.

“It is irrational. It is hurtful. It is unacceptable,” said Ramaphosa.

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

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