SA commits to ‘reinvigorate’ HIV response as Aids conference closes

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DURBAN, June 14 – South Africa has committed to reinvigorating the response to the HIV/Aids epidemic, delegates at the country’s 9th Aids conference heard on Friday.

The message formed part of the closing plenary at the four-day conference, which heard much about how “donor fatigue” and societal complacency had hampered the fight against the disease.

The eThekwini Declaration, the culmination of decisions taken at the 2019 conference, encompassed a “radical call to action” to reinvigorate and revolutionize the response to HIV.

The declaration was presented to deputy president David Mabuza at the closing ceremony by professor Refilwe Phaswana-Mafuya, who chaired the event.

Mabuza received the declaration because he is the chairman of the South African National Aids Council (SANAC), a position held by all of the country’s deputy presidents.

“We are ready for action and our people are ready for change,” said Phaswana-Mafuya.

“There is again a need to revive the sense of urgency, political will, compassion, transparency and accountability towards reinvigoration of the HIV response,” read the declaration.

However, the reinvigoration needed to be embedded in human rights principles and ethical values. “Investing in HIV is investing in the health, development, and future of the country,” read the declaration.

A commitment was made to support unprecedented innovations, technologies and strategies to control the epidemic as the country moved into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Other commitments included investment in research, developing programmes to encourage the active participation of youth in the HIV response and addressing inequalities – particularly gender inequalities, and empowering young women and girls.

A commitment was also made to “reawaken the urgency of HIV and Aids as a devastating public health crisis still requiring an emergency response” and to position the community at the center of epidemic control for a sustained, inclusive and successful response.

The 2019 conference confirmed that:

* About 7.9 million people in South Africa were currently living with HIV

* Over 4.4 million people in South Africa were on treatment

* While the incidence was declining, new infections among youth – particularly adolescent girls and young women – remained persistently high

* Progress towards the 2030 global epidemic control targets was not adequate

* Key populations and vulnerable groups remained underdiagnosed and under-treated, with high mortality and morbidity rates

* The health system was overburdened, resulting in service delivery challenges.

African News Agency (ANA)