A recent study conducted by the Human Sciences Research Council has revealed a concerning increase in HIV prevalence among teenage girls aged 15 to 19. South African National AIDS Council Chairperson, Mashatile, has attributed this rise to the engagement of older men in unprotected sexual activities with young girls.
In response, Mashatile is calling on the public to create a safe environment for children to discuss the factors influencing their sexual conduct and the pressures they face.
Mashatile emphasizes the importance of standing with children and educating them about their rights and sexual health. He specifically highlights the urgent need for increased access to HIV treatment for children who are HIV positive.
In December 2020, UNAIDS set ambitious targets for 2025, aiming for 95% of all people living with HIV to know their status, 95% of those diagnosed with HIV to receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 95% of those on treatment to achieve viral suppression.
While South Africa did not reach its 90-90-90 target for 2020, Mashatile expresses confidence in meeting the new targets for 2025.
Mashatile states, “We are confident that we will meet the 95-95-95 targets by December 2025 and make significant progress towards fulfilling our commitments to Agenda 2030.”
He highlights the launch of the new strategic national plan for 2023/2028, which prioritizes people and communities in efforts to address inequalities in the country’s response to HIV.
Furthermore, Mashatile calls on communities to actively participate in strategic interventions to combat the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS.
The theme for this year, “Let Communities Lead,” urges stakeholders and communities to intensify their efforts and invest in community-led interventions and approaches to respond to the HIV epidemic.
Mashatile emphasizes that this theme also encourages communities to address inequalities such as poverty, discrimination, and inadequate access to services, particularly for vulnerable communities such as women, transgender individuals, sex workers, people living with disabilities, and children.
By actively involving communities and empowering them to take the lead, Mashatile believes that South Africa can make significant strides in overcoming the challenges posed by HIV/AIDS.
He highlights the importance of collective action and the need for a comprehensive approach that addresses the underlying social, economic, and structural factors contributing to the spread of the virus.