Deputy President David Mabuza has used World Aids Day to call on young people to get actively involved in the fight against HIV and Aids.
He said with the energy young people have, HIV can be defeated.
Deputy President Mabuza also encouraged young girls to love and respect their bodies and not to allow older men to use them.
This year’s World Aids Day event was held in Soweto. It was observed under the theme: “Cheka Impilo – Know Your Status”. The theme is part of the National Wellness Campaign called Cheka Impilo – a call to action to all South Africans to take responsibility for their health and wellness.
The Deputy President told the young people who had come in their numbers that if they are determined, nothing can defeat them and they can defeat HIV.
He said the fight against HIV and Aids throughout the years has had many ebbs, challenges and flows.
“We have had times of wisdom and times of vice, times of science, sense and ignorance. We have had times of arrogance and stigma, times of care and times of reckless abandon. Yet we have emerged from these afflictions with the resilience of a nation renowned for the best HIV response in the world,” he said. South Africa has the biggest HIV treatment programme in the world, with more than 4.2 million people on life-saving anti retrovirals (ARVs).
Millions of HIV positive South Africans who previously had no hope now live productive lives. The treatment has led to an increase in life expectancy and low levels of mother-to-child HIV transmission rates.
The Deputy President said although the country stands proud with the achievement, the road ahead remains long but not difficult.
“It is still winding and challenging, with its pitfalls, potholes and rough edges in abundance. Yet we are determined to walk this last mile of the way of a seemingly distant future, a future of infinite possibility, a future of an HIV-free world.”
Tholakele Seobi said the youth need more education about HIV and Aids.
“As the youth we need to know more about HIV and Aids, we need more information so that we can protect ourselves,” Seobi said, adding that it was sad to see young people dying because of a lack of knowledge.
Also attending the World Aids Day commemoration, Nicholas Teamane, suggested government hold workshops to educate young people about the dangers of HIV and Aids.
“Distributing condoms is not enough, we need to know more about HIV and Aids,” he said.
For others who attended, it was an opportunity to get tested. Health officials were on site testing people for HIV and Aids, diabetes and other ailments.
Gogo Martha Selele, says she has wanted to visit the clinic to get tested for a long time but there was no one to accompany her as it is a distance to get there and she also needed to pay for transport.
“Am happy that they are here today, I am here to get tested,” she said.
Delegates from around the world attended the World Aids Day, some of whom commended South Africa for the work it is doing in the fight against HIV and Aids.
“Your success is the success of your people,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe.
He said awareness campaigns are important in educating people about HIV and Aids.
World AIDS Day is an opportunity for everyone to unite in the fight against HIV and Aids.
South Africa has come a long way in the fight against HIV and Aids.