Paul Samasumo – Vatican City
On the 30th World AIDS Day anniversary, the Southern Africa Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) AIDS Office Director, Mrudula Smithson, has spoken about significant progress made in the AIDS response in South Africa.
“South Africa has the largest ARV programme in the world. This has resulted in reducing child mortality by 20% and reducing the rate of new infections by 44%. However the rate of new infections among young people remains alarmingly high,” she said.
The SACBC AIDS Office is marking the 1 December anniversary with Candle Lighting, prayers for those affected by HIV and distribution of information leaflets to the public.
“To date, significant progress has been made in the AIDS response for reducing the impact of the HIV pandemic in South Africa. In 2017, of the 7.9 million people living with HIV in South Africa, 60% are on ARVs. Our next task is to find the remaining 40% through intensive testing campaigns and link them to treatment, quality care and prevention services,” Smithson said,
Access to confidential HIV testing still a concern
Smithson says HIV testing is an important component of the commemoration of world AIDS day.
“HIV testing is essential for expanding treatment and ensuring that all people living with HIV can lead healthy and productive lives.” She added, “Access to confidential HIV testing is still an issue of concern. Many people still only get tested after becoming ill and symptomatic.”
1 December 2018, the world community is marking the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day. This year’s theme is “Know your status.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that today four in five people living with HIV in the African Region know their status. Besides, more than three in five people are accessing life-saving antiretroviral therapy.
Telling stories of people who have been living with HIV for a very long time
The WHO Regional Office for Africa is marking the anniversary milestone with stories of people who have been living with HIV for a very long time. Many thought they would never live to see today. The good news is that there are many new ways of expanding access to HIV testing. Self-testing, community-based testing and multi-disease testing are all helping people know their HIV status.
The key is early diagnosis and accessing treatment
HIV is a treatable condition and is no longer a terminal illness that it was in the 1980s. Knowing one’s status is essential for accessing specialist HIV services and HIV treatment.
Doctors say that effective HIV therapy not only keeps the individual well but also prevents them from passing the virus onto others. If someone with HIV is diagnosed early and is able to access treatment, then their life expectancy is as good as if they were HIV negative.