Deputy President David Mabuza says South Africa is not doing enough to prevent new HIV infections.
Mabuza delivered the closing address at the 9th South African Aids Conference in Durban at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban on Friday.
The deputy president serves as the chairperson of the South African National Aids Council, which coordinates the annual event.
The conference saw the launch of the South African Human Rights Plan and the announcement of ground-breaking research on contraceptives.
In his closing address, Mabuza applauded these milestones but said more work awaited the country in the fight against HIV/Aids.
He said South Africa must step up its game and implement proven methods while supporting those already infected with HIV.
Mabuza said this would entail enrolling about two million more people in the country’s antiretroviral programme.
“HIV and Aids continues to affect all aspects of our lives beyond the dictates of medicine, as it becomes more apparent that this epidemic defines our social, psychological, economic and spiritual existence,” he said.
“We cannot be complacent in our drive to end this epidemic. We must be resolute in our fight and in all our interventions in research and policy implementation. We are informed that the scientists, researchers, government and civil society that attended this Aids conference all agree that if we are to end this epidemic, something drastic needs to be done.”
There are an estimated 7.4 million South Africans living with HIV and only about 4.9 million of them have access to antiretroviral therapy treatment.
Mabuza also said more needed to be done to reduce the number of new HIV infections. The Human Sciences Research Council said over 250,000 new HIV infections occur in South Africa annually.
Mabuza said government’s target was to get below 100, 000 new infections by December 2020.
“As we make these strides, the contributing factor in not reaching desired targets, remains the challenge of stigma and discrimination. It is a scientific fact that HIV as well as TB, do not discriminate by age, race, gender, class and socio-economic status.
“We too must not discriminate on the basis of any of these categories, instead we are called upon to value every human being and should at all material times assist those infected and affected to overcome their condition in order to reach their full potential. We must be compassionate and ensure that available services are provided with respect and dignity to all,” he said.
As part of a prevention drive, Mabuza promised intensified support for vulnerable groups such as adolescents.
“We are cognisant of the multiple biological and societal factors that play a role in the transmission of the virus. Our learners, especially adolescent girls and young women, will be getting focused attention from our government,” Mabuza said.
“This entails a holistic approach to sexuality, starting from age-appropriate life skills education in schools, so that young people have an understanding of their own bodies. We are approaching this work with utmost care and caution, so that we do not prematurely sexualise our children. In addition, access to dignity packs is being prioritised and recently our government has made all menstrual products VAT free.”