Deputy President David Mabuza has commended people with HIV for sharing their personal stories about their experiences, despite the stigma and discrimination associated with the virus.
“I’m happy with your courage and the confidence to step forward and talk. We can [bemoan] stigma and discrimination, but I think you have conquered that already by merely talking about it,” Mabuza said.
The Deputy President was speaking during a dialogue with adolescent girls and people with HIV, held on Tuesday at Itireleng Community Health Centre in Dobsonville, Soweto.
The dialogue was part of the World Aids Day commemoration, where the Deputy President, in his capacity as chairperson of the South African National Aids Council (SANAC), delivered the keynote address.
World Aids Day 2020 is commemorated under the theme ‘We’re in this together – Cheka Impilo’, a clarion call to every South African to make the right health choices and ensure that they know their health status.
The theme is aligned to the global theme for World Aids Day, which is ‘Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility’.
During the dialogue, the Deputy President, accompanied by Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize and Gauteng Premier David Makhura, heard about the challenges faced by people living with HIV, as well as services offered by various organisations.
Deputy President Mabuza said the dialogue gave them an opportunity to learn about people’s experiences.
“For some of you, you’ve grown up in a facility not called home, and some of you were born HIV positive and that presented a challenge in itself. But you are here today, you are still strong and ready to tackle the next challenges of your journey,” the Deputy President said.
He said SANAC must find a way to reach out to young boys and girls, noting that young girls are mostly affected, and that the level of infection keeps on rising.
“As SANAC, we must respond to the issues of adolescent girls and boys. A number of programmes are conducted by the provincial government and some of them are going to respond directly to your challenges, and we are going to work closely with the Premier to try to respond to your challenges,” Mabuza said.
Mkhize said the Department of Health will do everything to sort out issues of staff attitude at health care centres.
“Young people must not feel marginalised and side-lined. We have to do more work on that. We have to work very hard and deal with the stigma. We will do our best to give you support in the areas you have problems with,” Mkhize said.
One of the participants, who is has HIV, said that disclosing one’s HIV status, especially to their partner, is still a challenge.
“Dating is kind of challenging because not everyone understands the virus, hence most people keep quiet and don’t disclose, and end up infecting other people,” he said.