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Human Rights

SA marks World Aids Day 2015

Pretoria: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says South Africa has made tremendous progress in fighting the HIV and Aids pandemic.

This comes as South Africa joins the world in marking World Aids Day 2015.

The country has the biggest HIV treatment programme in the world, with more than three million people on life-saving antiretrovirals.

People are living longer and fewer people are dying of Aids and tuberculosis (TB). Life expectancy has increased from 53 years in 2006 to just over 62 years in 2013.

Addressing the national event at the Ugu Sports and Leisure Centre in KwaZulu-Natal, the Deputy President said the day is aimed at celebrating the people around the globe who are living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

The day is also aimed at evaluating the progress that South Africa is making in fighting the pandemic. It is further a platform for government and citizens to recommit to achieve the objective of an HIV free generation.

“In celebrating this day, we are also showing support to those living with HIV. This fight, in many ways, has brought all of humanity together,” he said, adding that the fight against the disease has united the world rather than dividing it.

“This devastating virus has reminded us of our common humanity and our common vulnerability as well. It has also awakened us to our collective strength as well as our shared future,” he said.

The Deputy President said HIV and Aids affects and infects indiscriminately. It thrives on ignorance and conditions of poverty, as well as stigma and conditions of unequal gender relations.

“It also thrives on destructive behaviour, abuse of alcohol and drugs, and unsafe sex. It is therefore up to us collectively and individually to take responsibility of our own health and the health of those we love and those we know,” said the Deputy President.

He called on all to act to inform, support and encourage others, saying everyone must protect the people around them, especially the vulnerable.

World Aids Day, said the Deputy President, is a reminder that the epidemic is still here and more needs to be done to raise awareness and eliminate prejudice.

To achieve success on the national strategies aimed at fighting HIV and Aids, South Africa needs to focus on local level tasks that need to be performed for the prevention and treatment of the disease.

He applauded non-government organisations (NGOs) and champions in communities for teaching and empowering people about prevention, treatment and management of the disease.

South Africa is determined to reduce and eliminate the mother-to-child transmission of HIV and Aids. Also, the number of new HIV infections is still high, particularly among young women and girls.

Deputy President Ramaphosa reiterated last year’s World Aids Day message that “sugar daddies” must leave young girls alone and date within their own age group. He discouraged young girls from getting involved with them.

“They are dangerous. Leave them out of your lives… we must equip young people with tools to resist peer pressure, to avoid teenage pregnancy and to define their own values that will secure them a healthy lifestyle and prosperous future,” he said.

He called on men to visit healthcare facilities to be voluntarily tested and to undergo medical male circumcision.

The country is also intensifying the efforts to end Tuberculosis, particularly amongst high risk populations such as prison inmates and mine workers.