Ashok Ramsarup :: As countries around the world grapple with the deadly coronavirus pandemic, the strains of HIV continue to haunt people affected with Aids.
Speaking at the World Aids Day in Dobsonville in the suburb of Soweto, South African Deputy President David Mabuza made a clarion call for everyone to play a significant role in helping the government to reduce new HIV and TB infections in the country.
As the global community observes World Aids Day, Mabuza urged South Africans in stopping gender-based violence and femicide, as well as protecting the most vulnerable in society, including adolescent girls and young women.
The World Aids Day 2020 is observed under the theme “Cheka Impilo – We’re in This Together – and your status. Mabuza said: “The South African National Aids Council (SANAC) must find a way to reach out to young boys and girls, who are vulnerable as the level of infection keeps rising.
A report released at the 23rd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2020: Virtual) indicated that “HIV raises the risk of death from COVID-19 in South Africa’s Western Cape Province’. Dr Mary-Ann Davies of the Western Cape Health Department said the increase in risk was modest and although HIV prevalence in the country was high, the relative youth of the population living with HIV means that the absolute number of deaths due to HIV remains small.
According to statistics, South Africa had the biggest HIV epidemic in the world, with 7.7 million people living with HIV. HIV prevalence among the general population is high at 20.4%.
Commemorating World AIDS Day at Itireleng Clinic, Mabuza lauded the health care workers for the sterling work they do to support adolescent girls, young men and women. He said: “This clinic offers youth-friendly services, and they also work in partnership with the ward-based outreach teams in the community, as well as non-governmental organisations.
“This relationship that Itireleng Clinic has with the community, is a practical reminder to all of us, that we can only win the fight against HIV and TB if we work together in solidarity to save lives and livelihoods, protect the vulnerable and marginalised,” he added.
Meanwhile, India, the world’s largest democracy has 121 months left to make U=U a reality for every person living with HIV and end AIDS by the year 2030.
Dr Ishwar Gilada, President of AIDS Society of India (ASI) who also represents the Asia Pacific region in the Governing Council of International AIDS Society (IAS) said the country was in limbo as the HIV control measures had been overshadowed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Gilada said: “India has been a signatory to the World Health Organisation’s target of 90-90-90 by 2020, but the Covid-19 pandemic drastically affected the programme from achieving the 90:90:90 targets by 2020. He said the first 90, among those infected with HIV 76% know their status, in the second 90, among those who know their status 84% were on ART, while in the last 90, among those on ART, about 80% had their HIV viral loads suppressed.
Dr Gilada commented: “As per the UNAIDS Report 2020, Asia Pacific region has seen a 12% decline in new) HIV infections and a 29% decline in AIDS-related deaths over the last decade (2010-2020), but a maximum decline of new infections by 66% in India.
“A paradigm shift in the treatment is the changing of the regimen as treatment is the norm so that all people living with HIV get ART due to which amount of virus in their blood will get reduced to undetectable levels, and their risk of transmitting HIV becomes negligible, making U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable) a reality,” added Dr Gilada.