01 December 2011

Zero is the desired mark!

This year's theme for World AIDS Day is ‘Getting to Zero', highlighting the goal to reduce new infections, AIDS-related deaths as well as discrimination against those infected. Most importantly, there is an urgent need to eliminate the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS - and get it to zero!

Statistics reveal that more than 33 million people in the world are living with the virus. Between 1981 and 2007, over 25 million people died from the virus making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.

World AIDS Day is therefore necessary to bring about awareness around the seriousness of this virus and to emphasise the importance of knowing one's status. Hopefully, working collective, this pandemic can be beaten.

Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, the South African health minister, released a health survey detailing the prevalence of the virus among pregnant women. The survey revealed that the country continues to have high infection rates among 15 - 24-year old pregnant women. It also showed that 10-14 year olds are increasingly infected.

These indicators are a cause for concern as they suggest that HIV infection trend among young people does not demonstrate a decline. Dr Motsoaledi's report therefore called for a comprehensive strategy focusing on this age group.

Motsoaledi said we are indeed still far from winning the war against HIV/Aids but are getting somewhere.

Another unfortunate setback to the fight against the pandemic is the looming closure of one of the most influential activist organisations, the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), due to a funding crisis. As a non-governmental organisation, its work depends on funding. Reportedly, a large portion of the funds it receives comes from the Global Fund, however, a scheduled R6, 5 million that TAC was supposed to receive in July this year was delayed, thereby jeorpadising TAC's work and functionality.

The funds are received through the National Department of Health as part of a five-year grant from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria in South Africa.

The TAC is a social movement advocating for rights of people infected with HIV and TB. For the past 12 years since its inception, it has become one of the most influential AIDS/TB activist organisations to date. Unless the health department comes to the party, TAC will unfortunately have to close shop.

In keeping with this year's World AIDS Day theme, Minister Motsoaledi urged people to get tested in order to structure their lives to live a safer and fulfilling life.

The stigma and discrimination remain a reality, hence the necessity of such a day to remind people that the fight continues. There is still a significant need to raise awareness, fight prejudice and improve education around this pandemic.