World AIDS Day 2010 = HIV Prevention

Written by Khopotso Bodibe

This World AIDS Day, South Africans are reminded that many of us continue to acquire HIV infection on an annual basis, hence the focus is on renewing HIV prevention efforts this year.

Although indications are that levels of HIV infections in South Africa have not been growing over the last few years, there is great concern that too many citizens continue to get infected. The latest antenatal survey results, which measure infections amongst pregnant women attending government ante-natal clinics, which also, by proxy, show HIV prevalence in the general population have remained unchanged in the last three years at around 29%. The 2009 survey involved just over 33 000 women.

Interpreting the trend, Deputy chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), Mark Heywood, said: We still have far too many new HIV infections on an annual basis. And we still have an extremely and unacceptably high HIV prevalence. I think put in plain language, what the antenatal prevalence survey shows is that out of every three pregnant women who attend an antenatal clinic, one is HIV-positive, and that is of great alarm to us.

Heywood said the country needs to step up its campaign around HIV prevention. He said at today’s main event to commemorate World AIDS Day, which will be in Piet Retief, in Mpumalanga province, it is expected that President Jacob Zuma will visit communities to have a dialogue on HIV prevention.

‘It won’t be our traditional big stadium event. It will involve going into the community, talking to people in the community, talking to health care workers and encouraging the people who are on the front-line of our efforts against HIV to have faith, to re-double their efforts, to know that there is complete political support for our efforts around HIV’.

He also called on South Africans to embrace the Health Department’s call to know their HIV status through the HIV Counseling and Testing (HCT) campaign launched in April.

‘Our objective is for every South African to know their HIV status. We are trying to measure 15 million people voluntarily testing for HIV. So far, over three million or three-and-a-half people have voluntarily tested for HIV since April, which is a significant step forward for our efforts in HIV control and in HIV prevention. But it is only 25% of the way towards our target and we need to make sure that another 12 million people test for HIV and that of the people who test positive and negative for HIV, people go away strengthened, referred to treatment, referred into TB care where TB care is necessary’.

He said the theme for this year’s commemoration builds on last year’s theme. Last year’s was: ‘I am responsible’. This year’s theme is: ‘We are responsible’.

‘We are responsible as a collective, as a church, as a government, as a workplace, as a school, as a family.

We are responsible and we need to take steps together to do what we can to create the scale of mobilisation around HIV which, hopefully, will mean that we can come back in a few years and present a very, very different picture of HIV prevalence, HIV incidence and also of the social toll of HIV on our communities in this country’, Heywood said.

About the author

Khopotso Bodibe