Make World Aids Day count

The South African Medical Association (SAMA) has urged members of the public and healthcare professionals to actively participate in World AIDS Day activities on 1 December.

World Aids Day is about increasing awareness of HIV and Aids. This is done through sharing educational information, showing support for people living with HIV, fighting the stigma attached to living with HIV and participating in health activities such as testing for HIV, said SAMA chairperson Dr Mzukisi Grootboom.

This year’s World Aids Day, which is observed under the theme ‘It is in our hands to end HIV and TB’, celebrates the progress made in the fight against HIV and serves as a call to action as the country redoubles its efforts towards the ultimate goal of zero new infections and zero deaths from Aids and TB.

Grootboom said that this year’s theme is relevant, as it requires a commitment to being proactive in working towards a solution and helping those with HIV.

Speaking about HIV and Aids is not something that should happen once a year around this time. While we acknowledge that much has been achieved in fighting this disease, we are mindful that much more needs to be done, Grootboom said.

Universal test and treat programme

He said SAMA is pleased that this year saw the introduction of the universal test and treat programme for every HIV positive person, irrespective of their CD4 count.

He said this development heralds a new era for the country as it contributes to stemming the toll of untreated HIV and ensures that those infected with HIV have early access to treatment.

Other significant milestones include wide availability of the GeneXpert equipment nationwide, a reduction in the sexual transmission of HIV among 15 – 24-year-olds, a decrease in mother to child transmission, a decline in new TB and HIV infections, and the provision of pre-exposure prophylaxis to sex workers.

Grootboom, however, warned that while these achievements were registered, there is no room for complacency.

TB remains the leading cause of death and the number of multi-drug resistant TB cases remains at worrying levels. HIV prevalence is still high among sex workers and men who have sex with men, while the rate of new HIV infections among young women is also still high at 2 000 new infections a week. However, HIV infection is no longer a death sentence, said Grootboom.

He reiterated that prevention is better than cure and urged the youth to avoid having multiple sexual partners and to delay the onset of sexual activity.

He encouraged the public to take advantage of the wide availability of male and female condoms and use these preventative measures where necessary.

Grootboom also urged people to visit their nearest health centres for HIV testing and counselling.

Pregnant women, he said, should test early in their pregnancy for HIV to prevent their babies from becoming infected.

It is important for everyone to know their HIV status by testing for HIV and for every South African living with HIV to have access to anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment. We encourage those on HIV treatment to take their medication as recommended by health providers to avoid drug resistance and worsening of health, Grootboom said.

Source: South African Government News Agency