MTHATHA (South Africa), Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle says as South Africa observes the 29th World Aids Day communities and traditional leaders are being mobilised to join the world in taking responsibility to defeat the HIV and Aids pandemic.
This year's focus is on the institution of traditional leaders because traditional communities see the prevalence of this disease, particularly on young women where we see an increase in infections, said the Premier.
He was speaking to media on Friday at the Bumbane Great Place at the AbaThembu Kingdom in the Eastern Cape where the main World Aids Day commemoration is taking place.
The Premier, along with other government leaders, is there ahead of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa's dialogue with Kings, Queens and other traditional leaders on issues around HIV and Aids.
The Premier said the commemoration is influenced by the National Strategic Plan which emphasises doubling efforts to prevent the spread of HIV. The NSP is a roadmap for united action to take the country's HIV, TB and sexually transmitted diseases response to a new level and overcoming these major public health challenges
The Eastern Cape is ranked 6th in terms of HIV infection rates in the country. The Premier said there are a number of factors that led to the increase in the number of infections in the province.
Among them is the high unemployment rate that disempowers young girls from completing their education and gaining independence. These young women can end up falling prey to older men who believe that if they date young women they will be cured of HIV.
We are gathering here to raise awareness to make sure that people use protection and use preventative measures to stop the spread of HIV.
Hundreds of young girls, who are under the Inkciyo programme for virgins, sang and danced to greet the Acting King of abaThembu, Prince Azenathi Dalindyebo, and to welcome guests.
The Acting King donated a cow to the Inkciyo programme and encouraged girls to maintain their virginity, which will reduce their chances of contacting sexually transmitted diseases.
The official programme will take place later this afternoon at the Walter Sisulu University Stadium. Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as the chairperson of the South African National Aids Council (SANAC), will address the occasion.
World Aids Day takes place on 1 December each year. It is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV and to commemorate those who have died from Aids-related illness.
Founded in 1988, World Aids Day was the first ever global health day.
South Africa's theme for this year's commemoration is 'It is my right to know my status. Prevention is my responsibility'.
According to SANAC, South Africa hopes to reduce new HIV infections by more than 60% from an estimated 270 000 in 2016 to below 100 000 by 2022.
The country also aims to reduce TB incidence by at least 30% from 450 000 to 315 000.
About 3.7 million citizens are on ARV treatment, which also helps to reduce the death rate, but it acknowledges that work is not so well done in protecting people from HIV infections.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK