David Mabuza tells South Africans to stop stigmatising people with HIV
Deputy president David Mabuza said the main contributing factor for SA not reaching its targets in combating HIV remains the challenge of stigma and discrimination.
Mabuza was addressing hundreds of scientists and researchers at the closing plenary of the 9th SA National Aids Conference at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban on Friday.
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Mabuza said South Africans should stop stigmatising and discriminating against people living with HIV.
Mabuza said that SA, which has one of the highest rates of HIV infections in the world, has about 7.4 million HIV-positive citizens.
"We currently have 4.9 million people living with HIV that are on treatment. We need to initiate another 2 million on ARVs by December 2020."
He said the government would be focusing on the transmission of the virus in women and children.
"Our learners, especially adolescent girls and young women, will be getting focused attention from our government. 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. It's important to gradually gravitate to that point where we talk about these things with our young people."
He said the government had recently made all menstrual products VAT-free.
"We believe that every girl should have the power to decide her future. Our responsibility as government, together with parents, is to ensure that girls are equipped with education in order to lead independent and productive lives. Our responsibility is ensure that they are healthy, and that they are safe from any form of abuse and gender-based violence."
He said equal attention needed to be paid to young boys to prevent early exposure to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
"Of concern is that the age of the first sexual debut among young boys is decreasing, thereby making them vulnerable to this epidemic. We must ensure that young boys do not become fathers without planning."
He said the country's premiers and mayors would be held accountable for the performance of HIV/Aids councils in the provinces and municipalities they lead.
Earlier, the CEO of the SA National Aids Council (Sanac), Dr Sandile Buthelezi, said that gender-based violence, unemployment and substance abuse were some of the main reasons SA had not been on target to reach its 2020 goal of reducing HIV infections.