World Aids Day: SA has made huge strides, but we can do more - Ramaphosa

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President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
  • While South Africa has made progress in its fight against HIV/Aids, the coronavirus pandemic has put pressure on the public health system, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.
  • The president says South Africa is still far from reaching its goal of achieving a 75% reduction in HIV infections by 2020.
  • He says in order to end Aids as a public health threat within the next decade, the country needs to combine medical breakthroughs with fundamental changes in behaviour. 

South Africa has made significant progress in its fight against HIV/Aids over the past decade, but the coronavirus pandemic has put pressure on the country's health system. Consequently, many HIV, Aids and tuberculosis (TB) services have suffered, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday. 

In his weekly newsletter ahead of World Aids Day on Tuesday, Ramaphosa said many lessons that have been learnt from South Africa's  public health response to the coronavirus pandemic that can strengthen the fight against HIV and TB.

"South Africa continues to have the largest number of people living with HIV in the world. It is encouraging, however, that over the last decade we made progress in reducing the number of new HIV infections in the population by nearly 60%," Ramaphosa said.

"It is also encouraging that HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women have significantly declined in the last decade. This is a crucial group because they are much more likely to be at risk of getting HIV. Our treatment programme has contributed to a reduction in the number of deaths due to Aids by 60%. There has been a greater reduction in HIV related deaths among young people."

READ | Cyril Rampahosa: We can learn from Covid-19 pandemic to help strengthen fight against HIV/Aids

These successes can be attributed to an extensive antiretroviral programme "reaching millions of people living with the disease", he said. 

"At the beginning of the decade, our programme to prevent mother to child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV had very low coverage. Now we have one of the highest rates of coverage of PMTCT in southern Africa, which has substantially reduced rates of infection among children.

Far from reaching our goal

"While we have reduced deaths and new infections, we still are far from reaching the goal we committed ourselves [to] in 2016 of achieving a 75% reduction in HIV infections by 2020. If we succeed in doing so, we are likely to end Aids as a public health threat by 2030," the president said.

"Unfortunately, we are not there yet. We have to do far more to ensure that young people are empowered to prevent infections, including through changing behaviour, accessing condoms and testing regularly. We need to make sure that everyone who is infected has access to treatment and care."

Ramaphosa added that, in order to end Aids as a public health threat within the next decade, the country needs to combine medical breakthroughs such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with fundamental changes in behaviour.

"We also need to tackle the economic and social conditions that contribute to high rates of infection."

The president said:

On this World Aids Day, which is taking place in the shadow of another devastating pandemic, let us intensify both our resolve and our actions to confront and overcome Aids once and for all.

Ramaphosa said Deputy President David Mabuza would lead the national commemoration with an address on progress in the country's response to HIV/Aids on Tuesday as chair of the South African National Aids Council.

Read the full newsletter here

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