In South Africa, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has an everyday impact on millions of lives. The disease is the greatest health issue facing our country, meaning that no South African should ignore the significance of an event such as World AIDS Day.
This international day is the world’s oldest global health day, having been celebrated every year on 1 December since 1988. The day provides an opportunity for people across the world to show their support for people living with HIV, to commemorate those who have died from AIDS-related illness, and to do their part in fighting the disease.
Why should we recognise World AIDS Day?
HIV/AIDS is one of the most destructive human pandemics in history. Globally, an estimated 36.7 million people are infected with HIV, and there have been a total of 35 million HIV/AIDS-related deaths since 1985.
As Africans, we cannot escape the devastating impact that HIV/AIDS has on our continent, and on South Africa in particular. According to the United Nations, 7.1 million South Africans (12% of the total population) were living with HIV in 2016, with 110 000 people dying as a result of the disease. The country is home to 19% of the global number of people living with HIV, and 11% of global AIDS-related deaths.
Through antiretroviral treatments and widespread awareness campaigns, new HIV infections and HIV-related deaths in South Africa have declined by 49% and 29% respectively since 2010. Despite these gains, the disease continues to take a massive toll on our country, causing the loss of economically active adults, the orphaning of millions of children, and costing the government billions of rand in treatment.
Considering that South Africa still suffers from the largest HIV epidemic in the world, the country and its people need to be at the forefront of fighting the illness. The South African government has developed the National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB and STIs 2017-2022, which aims to eliminate these major health threats by 2030.
What activities are happening in South Africa on World AIDS Day?
The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is “Let Our Actions Count: It is My Right to Know My Status, Prevention is My Responsibility”, with the focus on getting tested regularly and preventing new infections.
In the lead up to World AIDS Day, the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), has been encouraging South Africans to wear a red ribbon every Friday to raise awareness. On World AIDS Day, you can further show your support by posting social media photos of you wearing your ribbon, with the hashtags #RedRibbonFriday, #WAD2017 and #PreventionRevolution.
SANAC has also developed a World AIDS Day toolkit, which can be used by any individuals or organisations looking to hold their own events on the day, no matter how big or small. Get your friends, family, and work colleagues involved in supporting the cause!