Deputy President and Sanac chairman David Mabuza. Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

Secunda - Progress reports from a number of provinces received by the South African National Aids Council (Sanac) indicate that the response to HIV/Aids needs to "move into a higher and more focused gear", Deputy President David Mabuza said on Saturday.

Addressing the Sanac extended plenary session in Secunda in Mpumalanga, Mabuza, who is also Sanac chairman, said that earlier this year, the health department reported that just over 838 000 people tested positive for HIV for the period from January to December 2018. The highest incidence rates were recorded in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, and the Eastern Cape. 

Mpumalanga had 76 007 new HIV-positive cases. "As we have said before, one HIV infection is one too many. Working with our partners in civil society and in the business community, it is possible to reverse the HIV pandemic that has affected approximately 7.4 million people who are HIV-positive.

"We need to continue putting in practical and decisive measures to reduce this level of incidence, as we know how disproportionately it affects young women," he said. 

There was a close relationship between the development of society and the empowerment of women and girls. The reverse was also true that women disempowerment in any form or manner, such as gender-based violence, disadvantaged societal development. 

"This is why as government we welcome the speedy arrest, prosecution and sentencing of those who harm and violate the basic human rights of our women and girl-children. There can be no excuse to justify gender-based violence. There is no culture, tradition or religion that can be used to justify femicide or the wanton murder of women because they are women," Mabuza said.

Government wanted to use the district-based implementation model to assist in dealing with health threats at community level. The district development model was critical in the strengthening of provincial and district Aids councils. 

"In this regard, we will be working closely with district mayors and strengthen district Aids councils to give effect to improving the collective delivery outcomes. The model of district participation would ensure that the desired impact was made where it mattered. 

"I am sure that you would agree that as plenary, we have given ourselves the responsibility to meet the target of reaching two-million people who need to be tested and treated. Part of our outreach here today [Saturday] will be to step-up our efforts in support of the uptake of testing and treatment services for HIV, TB, and sexually transmitted infections." 

Hence the decision for the Sanac plenary to visit high-burden HIV and TB provinces and districts. This was in keeping with the aim to replicate the "Eshowe model" which had yielded significant successes within a short space of time. 

One of the key problems was not being able to win the prevention battle. Therefore, the message of more and more prevention had to be emphasised, particularly targetting young people, the age-group mostly affected by new infections. 

"This may require of us to change our tactics on how we approach this priority area and the Eshowe model provides us with clear evidence on how we can address some of the shortcomings regarding our prevention efforts. We also call on our partners in civil society and in the private sector to work with government.

"It is within our grasp to reverse the HIV pandemic and conquer gender-based violence. We can, and we will, win the battle by working together with all stakeholders in our schools, in our homes, at boardrooms, and in workplaces," Mabuza said.  

African News Agency/ANA