By Hassan Isilow
JOHANNESBURG (AA) – South Africa is lagging behind in preventing new HIV infections, Deputy President David Mabuza said Friday.
He was speaking at the closing ceremony of the 9th South Africa Aids Conference held in the coastal city of Durban.
“Whereas our comprehensive HIV response is being hailed as a success, what is clear is that we are not doing well in preventing new infections of the virus,” Mabuza said at the close of a four-day conference which attracted about 3,000 delegates from across the world.
He said it is estimated that there are around 250,000 new HIV infections in South Africa annually, a country where 7.4 million people are already living with the virus.
“This gap is big and it must be closed. Our target is to get below 100,000 new infections by December 2020,” he said.
Despite the high number of new infections, South Africa is praised for offering life saving medicines known as anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) to millions of infected patients.
“We currently have 4.9 million people living with HIV who are on treatment. We need to initiate another 2 million on ARVs by December 2020,” said the deputy president, who also serves as the chairperson of the South African National Aids council.
“We cannot be complacent in our drive to end this epidemic. We must be resolute in our fight and in all our interventions in research and policy implementation.”
Mabuza also appealed to South Africans to stop discriminating and stigmatizing against people living with the HIV virus because this could stop some from seeking treatment.
“We are called upon to value every human being and should at all material times assist those infected and affected to overcome their condition in order to reach their full potential,” he said.
“We must be compassionate and ensure that available services are provided with respect and dignity to all,” he pleaded.