DURBAN - KWAZULU-NATAL Premier Sihle Zikalala has urged the public to practice safe sex to fight the spread of HIV/Aids.
Speaking yesterday at the World Aids Day commemoration in Durban at the Gugu Dlamini Park, Zikalala said HIV/Aids remained a problem throughout the world.
He said that according to the UNAids Global Aids update report 2021, 37.7 million people are living with HIV but 10.3 million people are not on treatment.
About 1.5 million people got infected with HIV in 2020.
Zikalala emphasised the need for unity in order to fight against the scourge of the HIV/Aids pandemic.
He said while KZN remains the epicentre of the HIV burden in the country, there had been positive results with 4 districts having surpassed the 90-90-90 target, namely Umkhanyakude, Ugu, Umzinyathi and Harry Gwala.
The target refers to 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained treatment, and 90% of all people receiving treatment will have viral load suppression.
He encouraged residents in other districts to test for HIV so they know their statuses and that those who have tested positive must take their antiretrovirals and suppress the virus.
“We want to call especially on four major districts that need to intensify this fight and that is Ilembe, eThekwini, Umgungundlovu and Amajuba. These four areas are highly populated and are economic hubs of the province. We need to do more to fight HIV and Aids in these areas,” said Zikalala.
Zikalala said they had identified regression in the fight against HIV/ Aids in the country as from 2019 to this year, there had been a reduction of condom distribution by 39%, voluntary medical male circumcision came down by 99%, total tests done for HIV came down by 46% and the total number of patients initiated on ARVS declined by 35%.
He said another area of concern was the reluctance of men to seek help at health facilities, increased vulnerability of adolescent girls and young women and that there is a need for delivery of HIV counselling and testing services for children.
He added that key populations remain disproportionately affected by HIV including sex workers, men who engage in same-sex sexual relationships as well as transgender citizens. He encouraged men to allow themselves to be vulnerable and seek assistance and counselling as they could develop feelings of isolation and anger if it was ignored, which ends up leading to suicide, abuse of community members, children and women.
“We must have a common message and common plan to deal with HIV and Aids. The first is that we must all ensure that we find out our status. Second, after knowing our status we must then take the medication accordingly. We must also ensure that we engage in family planning and encourage our friends to know their status and we must empower women to make educated sexual reproductive decisions that best fit their lives,” he said.
EThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda said it was worrying that amid the Covid-19 pandemic, patients had discontinued their treatment for HIV and TB and that there had been a surge in new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 21 years.
He said the gains made in the fight against HIV and Aids should not be reversed due to Covid-19.