How far we have come as a nation in our fight against HIV... and how far we still must go.
From homophobia to HIV Denialism to Access to ARVs for pregnant and breastfeeding HIV+ women to Access for All. HIV has gone from being a death sentence to a chronic, manageable disease. There is still much stigma surrounding this virus, but thankfully regular HIV testing and condom use has become seen as a responsible habit for all, rather than an the exception or an admission of guilt.
The Department of Health encourages safe sex practices such as 1. knowing your status and 2. choosing one sexual partner. They have also distributed male and female condoms and are now offering free lubricants and flavoured condoms in an attempt to catch the attention of teenagers and young adults who are at risk.
The UNAIDS World AIDS Day theme for 2011 to 2015 is: “Getting to Zero”. This year, South Africa will focus on ZERO DISCRIMINATION, without losing sight of the other ‘zeroes’: zero new HIV infections and zero AIDS related deaths. We call on all South Africans to join our Zero Stigma, Zero Discrimination campaign for World AIDS Day 2014.
Significantly, many of the AIDS orphans who lost their parents to the HIV epidemic of the late 90s are becoming adults and entering universities and work forces. This is the generation born with HIV for whom there is great hope but for whom great stigma remains. The rights of people living with HIV still need to be protected especially as this generation faces difficult decisions around marriage and parenthood.
Zero Stigma, Zero Discrimination - you can make it happen.