SA must not only fight spread of HIV but stigma too, says Mabuza
Johannesburg - Deputy President David Mabuza has said more equitable access to health care was needed to ensure the government continued to fight the spread of HIV/Aids.
Speaking at a commemoration of World Aids Day at the Itireleng Community Health Centre in Dobsonville, Soweto, on Tuesday, Mabuza said better access to health care would mean that people received the intervention they needed.
Mabuza, in his capacity as chairperson of the SA National Aids Council, said: “If we fail to ensure that all marginalised groups have equal access to health, education and employment, all our efforts to address HIV will be futile.”
Although South Africa has 7.6 million people living with HIV, making it one of the countries with the highest number of infections, Mabuza said over 73% of people living with HIV were maintaining their treatment.
“We are happy that our country’s suppression of HIV has reached over 80%. We need to remain focused and have more and more people on treatment and staying on treatment so that they remain virally suppressed,” he said.
Mabuza said 18 million South Africans had tested for HIV this year, “thus exceeding the annual target of 14 million that we had set for ourselves”.
“Our treatment programme has also reduced the number of deaths due to Aids by 60%,” he said.
He said as the country continued to fight against the spread of the virus, fighting stigma was also important.
Mabuza commended the youth that attended the commemoration for being brave enough to share their stories.
Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize reiterated Mabuza’s sentiments regarding fighting the stigma surrounding HIV/Aids. “It is important that we fight this issue of discrimination at hospitals,” said Mkhize.
He also spoke about how the lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 had an impact on the treatment of people with HIV/Aids.
Mkhize said: “Due to the impact of Covid-19, it has been a difficult task to maintain HIV programme performance whilst dealing with the pressing urgency of this unprecedented crisis.
“However it is encouraging that two additional districts, Harry Gwala in KwaZulu-Natal, and Thabo Mofutsanyane in Free State, have achieved their targets at the total population level during the first six months of 2020.”
People living with HIV/Aids who shared their experiences at the event echoed the statements about dealing with stigma.
They spoke about the bad treatment they received from community members and from health-care workers at clinics.