As the globe marks World Aids Day, medical professionals in South Africa are urging young people to normalise testing for HIV to know their status.
World Aids Day is commemorated annually across the globe to show solidarity with the millions of people living with the virus and to raise awareness about the status of the epidemic.
Approximately 7.8 million South Africans live with the virus, which is a 1.3% drop from 2017.
Despite these strides, however, the stigma surrounding HIV and Aids remains.
A recent study on HIV by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) indicates that new HIV infections are still occurring amongst those between the ages of 15 and 24 years, followed by those between 24 and 35 years.
Low condom use has been cited as the main contributory factor to these new infections.
While the disease can be treated and managed like any other chronic conditions, experts continue to stress the importance of knowing your status.
Speaking to Ynews, Dr Chuka Onaga from Right To Care has highlighted how patriarchal systems have left African women more vulnerable to being infected with HIV.
“Women cannot be in a position to constantly negotiate the use of various methods like condoms in sexual encounters.”
Onaga says socio-economic challenges and the social media lifestyle have also forced women and young girls to turn to commercial sex, therefore opening them up to potential HIV infection.
The medic has also drawn attention to the fact that men above the age of 50 have a high HIV prevalence and says the young women usually get the virus from them.
Closer to winning the battle?
Meanwhile, Deputy President and Vice Chair at the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society, Dr Ndiviwe Mphothulo, says this year’s World Aids Day comes at a defining moment, where the world is getting closer to winning the war against HIV/AIDS.
He says the country is making good progress on achieving the 95-95-95 goals.
“This is where there is a target of 95% of HIV positive people to know their HIV status, 95% of people who know their HIV status be on ARVs, and 95% of people on ARVs have their viral load suppressed.
“South Africa is currently at 90-91-94, a great achievement for the country.”
Mphothulo says communities are crucial in efforts to end AIDS as a public health problem by 2030.
He says in the early 2000s, the global AIDS pandemic seemed unstoppable.
Written by: Lindiwe Mpanza