Deputy President David Mabuza. Photo: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS
Deputy President David Mabuza. Photo: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

#SAAIDS2019: Over two million not taking ARVs, for fear of stigma

By Bongani Hans Time of article published Jun 15, 2019

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Durban - Deputy President David Mabuza has warned that more than two million South Africans who are living with HIV do not have access to anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment because they are scared of being discriminated against.

Mabuza on Friday delivered the closing remarks at the South African National Aids Conference which took place at the Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre.

He said out of 7.4 million people who are HIV positive, only 4.9 million were taking ARVs.

“We need to initiate another two million on ARVs by December 2020,” he told international guests, including researchers and civil society organisations, who attended the conference.

Despite the country having the largest ARV treatment programme in the world, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize this week told the media that the country was regressing when it comes to controlling the increase in new infections. He said this was because people were still avoiding testing as they were fearing the stigma attached to the disease.

Mabuza said the country could not afford to regress.

“We must step up our fight and ensure that we implement targeted research and policy implementation measures to reverse new infections, and provide critical support to those who are already infected and affected by this epidemic,” said Mabuza.

He said there were 250000 new infections a year.

Instead of being discriminated against, Mabuza said, HIV/Aids patients should be supported and cared for by everyone in the country. He said both government and parents should provide their girl children with education about abuse and gender based violence.

“We must also pay particular attention to young boys to prevent early exposure to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Of concern is that the age of the first sexual debut amongst young boys is decreasing thereby making them vulnerable to this epidemic,” he said.

Talking to the SABC before opening the conference, Mkhize said the government was pushing to have 90% of those who are infected on treatment.

“We need to deal with the stigma which makes people feel intimidated to be diagnosed,” he said.

Aids Foundation of South Africa chief executive officer Debbie Mathew applauded the government for injecting billions of rand into the fight against HIV.

“We made a lot of progress in this country in managing disease but we still have alarmingly high number of people getting infected each day,” said Mathew.

She said more civil society organisations will have to come on board to assist in the fight.

“We need to target groups that are most at risk, including young women. We should focus on sex workers, people who inject themselves with drugs, men who have sex with other men and transgender people because those are at a very high risk of getting HIV.

“We should focus on getting everybody tested, and once they are tested and you initiate those who are positive as soon as possible onto treatment so that they become virally suppressed and cease infecting other people,” said Mathew.

She said Global Fund was contributing about R3.5 billion over a three-year period, which is 5% of what the government was contributing from its own budget.

Political Bureau

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