Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS
Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS
Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS
Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS
Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS
Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS
Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS
Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS
Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS
Picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS

Johannesburg - South Africa will not hesitate, detour, give up, or look back from the ultimate milestone of an HIV-free world, Deputy President David Mabuza said on Saturday.

Speaking at the 30th World Aids Day commemoration at Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto, Johannesburg, he said the day was a day of commemoration in as much as it was a day of action.

It was a call to everyone to know their status, to care for their well-being, and to take responsibility for their own health and that of others. The fight against HIV and Aids could never be won without considerable effort, hard-work, and dedication, nor without human agency, change in behaviour, and in "managing the expression of our sexual identity", he said.

"It is a day that demands of all of us to pause, to think and reflect to ensure that no matter our station in life, no matter our age, no matter our class or gender, we all take responsibility by testing for HIV, TB [tuberculosis], cancer and other ailments. It calls on us to take preventive measures as a first stance in tackling this pandemic. Equally, today we are entering a new era, an era of empowerment in knowing our status.

"Though we stand proud, tall, and on a pedestal, with our achievements so profound - the road ahead remains long but not difficult. Yet we are determined to walk this last mile of the way of a seemingly distant future, a future of infinite possibility, a future of an HIV-free world. Even though that day is elusive, we keep walking, for it is within reach," Mabuza said. 

It was by no small feat that South Africa today had the largest treatment campaign in the world. To date, the country had initiated 4.3 million South Africans on anti-retroviral treatment in the public sector, with an additional 235,000 in the private sector.

This was not a solo achievement by the state, but rather a collective achievement from the courageous struggles of great men and women around the world. It was the fruit of those who refused to be silent when people lost their lives and were denied life-saving treatment by cost alone, he said.  

"In the last year alone, we have managed to test 11 million people and initiated 567,293 people on ART. We are targeting HIV together with its fraternal sibling - Tuberculosis. We are determined to find those that are missing our national reach, those who have little knowledge and are vulnerable to multi-drug resistant TB."

Government sought to screen and test 14 million people for HIV and TB, and seven million for high blood pressure and diabetes. This would help add an additional two million HIV infected persons to the existing 4.3 million already receiving ARVs by December 2020.

"Going forward, our focus should be on young people and men. It is young people, especially those between 15 and 24 years of age and men that are not testing for HIV, not being initiated on ARVs and not reaching viral suppression. We are looking to our young people to play a leading role in this struggle as capable and dynamic agents of change. We are looking towards civil society, business, and traditional leadership to actively take part in the fight against HIV and TB. 

"By taking responsibility, through your activism, by bringing your voice to bear on these and other challenges, we can end the pitfalls of ignorance, discrimination and stigma associated with HIV. It is all in your hands. It all begins with you, with me, and with everybody. Let us all test for HIV, for TB, and cancer to take charge of this gift called life," Mabuza said.

African News Agency (ANA)