Alarming HIV Infections Among Young People in KwaZulu-Natal Highlighted at the 11th SA AIDS Conference
The conference commenced in Durban on Tuesday, coinciding with the release of distressing HIV infection statistics revealing a weekly average of approximately 1,300 new infections among young individuals in KwaZulu-Natal.
The four-day conference, concluding on Friday, brought together representatives from NGOs, the government, and research institutions at the Inkosi Chief Albert Luthuli Durban ICC.
The South African National AIDS Council Civil Society Forum emphasized the importance of societal involvement in combating HIV, stating that the majority of the 1,300 weekly infections in KwaZulu-Natal occurred among individuals aged 15 to 24.
Nelson Dlamini, the forum’s spokesperson, expressed the need for scaled-up and promoted youth-friendly services. The forum, along with other NGOs, organized a march from Gugu Dlamini Park to the conference venue, aiming to raise awareness about the challenges faced by those living with HIV.
Gugu Dlamini Park, located near the Durban Workshop shopping centre, stands as a symbol in the fight for the protection of the rights of people living with HIV.
The park is named after Gugu Dlamini, who was tragically murdered by her neighbors in Kwamashu township on December 16, 1998, after publicly disclosing her HIV status. Dlamini intended to create awareness regarding the dangers of HIV.
This year’s AIDS conference takes place amidst concerns that the increase in infections is attributed to the government’s shift in focus towards combating Covid-19.
The Presidency, in its statement on Tuesday, highlighted that the conference would gather the perspectives of South Africans on the government’s response to HIV/AIDS.
The conference serves as a platform for collaboration among various stakeholders, including scientists, researchers, social activists, program implementers, policymakers, and people living with HIV (PLHIV).
It aims to evaluate progress made in controlling the HIV/AIDS and TB epidemics amidst global health threats. Additionally, the conference will facilitate discussions on emerging priorities as South Africa continues its efforts and strategies to eliminate HIV as a public health threat. The theme of this year’s conference is “Act, Connect and End the Epidemic.”
Notable attendees at the conference include Steve Letsike, the chairperson of the South African National Aids Council (Sanac) civil society, Health Minister Joe Phaahla, and KZN Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube.