World AIDS Day Commemoration – Equalise and Integrate to End AIDS

Jan 26, 2023 | News

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Hosted under the theme “Equalise and Integrate to End AIDS”, the 2022 World AIDS Day Commemoration was held on Thursday, 01 December at Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium in Bloemfontein, Free State.

World Aids Day is observed annually around the world to show solidarity with the millions of people living with HIV and to raise awareness about the pandemic’s current status in order to encourage HIV prevention, treatment and care.

The national theme of the 2022 commemoration was intended to address persistent inequalities that hinder progress against the country’s efforts to end AIDS as a public health threat. The inequalities in question include exclusion and inadequate access to health services, especially by key and vulnerable populations, such as transgender persons and sex workers. The commemoration against the backdrop of a nation slowly recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic which plunged the country and the rest of the world into disarray, exposing the many inequalities suffered by many.

Health Minister Dr. Joe Phaahla was delegated by the SANAC Chairperson Deputy President David Mabuza to deliver the keynote address, in it, Dr Phaahla said, “aligned with the Global theme Equalise, the South African theme also spoke to one of the most valuable lessons we all learnt during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is the need to integrate health services.  Like most parts of the world, our country is recovering from service delivery disruptions caused by COVID-19, calling for the need to equalise and integrate to accelerate equitable access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.”  The Minster of Health further stated that the multisectoral role players in the country’s HIV response need to integrate their efforts to improve coordination, synergy and inclusivity. He also said that the theme will be carried through and emphasised at the upcoming 11th SA AIDS Conference in June 2023.  The Minister was accompanied by the SANAC Civil Society Chairperson Steve Letsike, Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela and representatives from development partners.

Days leading up to the official commemoration, SANAC, in partnership with various leaders in government, civil society, business and development partners, led numerous Policy-in-Action build-up events in and around Mangaung.  One of the build-up events included a first of a kind collaboration with the Free State Correctional Services, where the SANAC Civil Society Forum led by the Faith-Based Sector, People Living with HIV (PLHIV), Research Sector, and The Department of Sports, Arts, and Culture interacted with offenders of Bizzah Makhate and Grootvlei Correctional Services to hear their challenges as well as their recommendations on possible solutions for resolving those challenges.  The Civil Society Chair, Ms Steve Letsike, stated that the men and women incarcerated in those institutions were part of society and society needs to ensure that they are included in  interventions and that no one must be left behind in the countries’ response to HIV. She further encouraged those in attendance to recognize all other CSF sectors who did a stellar job in facilitating Policy-in-Action build-up activities. 

The updated South African Human Rights Charter

The Civil Society Chairperson took an opportunity at the 2022 World AIDS Day Commemoration to present the Minister of Health with the updated South African Human Rights Charter for People living with HIV and Key and Vulnerable Populations.   The old Charter was developed thirty years ago by the AIDS Consortium – the process of updating the revised version is supported by SANAC.

In her address, Ms Letsike said, “We have not yet realised equalisation. stigma and discrimination is still a reality for many. we need to promote people-centred and rights-based approach and work together as communities.  As a country we have a long way to go, hate speech, violence against women, children and LGBT people and murders that target key and vulnerable people are a continuing cause for concern., It can’t be that at this day and age, key and vulnerable populations are still subjected to such treatment.”

The updated Charter is aimed at facilitating equality and freedom from discrimination for all.