By Hassan Isilow
South Africa intends to put at least 6.2 million people living with the HIV virus on treatment by 2020, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said Friday.
Addressing the World AIDS Day commemoration in the Eastern Cape Province, Ramaphosa said his country currently has the biggest HIV treatment program in the world.
“We have 4.2 million people who are on treatment. But there is still some ways to go because we have about 7.1 million people who are HIV positive,” he said.
Anti-retroviral drugs which are given to HIV patients help to improve the quality of their lives, making them live longer and healthier.
Ramaphosa also said the government is planning to roll out campaigns that would reduce the annual new infections rate, which now stands at 270,000, to at least 88,000 by 2020.
“New infections are coming down, but too slowly,” he said.
He said that every year, the government distributes more than 900 million male and 40 million female condoms but people need to consistently use them as this is the most effective way of preventing HIV.
He warned communities to stop stigmatizing and discriminating against people living with HIV because it makes it difficult for them to go to clinics test or seek treatment.
“We know that the marginalization, discrimination, and persecution of vulnerable groups like sex workers and men who have sex with men only create conditions for the spread, not prevention, of HIV,’’
According to UNAIDS, South Africa has the largest HIV epidemic in the world, with 19 percent of the global number of people living with HIV.
The country sees 15 percent of new infections and 11 percent of AIDS-related deaths worldwide.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the most serious HIV and AIDS epidemic in the world. According to UNAIDS, there are approximately 36.7 million people living with the virus worldwide, with 20.9 million accessing antiretroviral therapy (ART) treatment. Meanwhile, 1.8 million people were infected with HIV globally in 2016.