The Joint United Nations Programme has revealed that there was an estimated 1.7 million new HIV infections globally in 2018 with 770 000 deaths from AIDS-related illnesses. Picture: Cynthia Goldsmith/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP

Johannesburg - The Joint United Nations Programme has revealed that there was an estimated 1.7 million new HIV infections globally in 2018 with 770 000 deaths from AIDS-related illnesses. The organisation has also stated that global estimates show that up to 74.9 million people have become infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic.

As the nation embarks on World Aids Day on 1 December annually, the South African Medical Association (SAMA) has urged all South Africans to live the 2019 theme of World Aids Day, “Communities make a difference”. 

“We also call on health professionals and the public to participate in related activities. World Aids Day is an opportunity for everyone to unite towards the goal of creating an informed and prepared generation,” said Angelique Coetzee, SAMA Chairperson.

Observance of World Aids Day and participation in activities linked to it are key to ensuring greater understanding and uniting around a common goal.” 

Coetzee also said World Aids Day is about increasing awareness of HIV and AIDS, sharing educational information, showing support to people living with HIV, fighting stigma, and participating in health activities such as testing for HIV.

She added that HIV and AIDS was still stigmatised and that it is crucial for communities to be well educated on the disease, and to be supportive to those in need.

“Community support gives young adults the opportunity to ask questions and seek counselling in an open environment, before or after sexual activity. This has the potential to prevent further infection of HIV, and is a crucial part of creating an open dialogue on these issues,” said Coetzee.

“Although HIV infection is no longer a death sentence, prevention remains better than cure. It is important for everyone to know their HIV status by testing for HIV, and for every South African living with HIV to have access to anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment.”  

SAMA also added that it was critical that those on HIV treatment take their medication as recommended by health providers to avoid drug resistance and worsening of health.

“HIV and AIDS is not one person’s issue to resolve, it is our collective responsibility to deal with it. Everyone is encouraged to participate in the dissemination of information that promotes health and disease prevention, testing and screening, as well as access to treatment. I urge everyone to stand together as a community on World Aids Day and make a difference."

African News Agency (ANA)