World AIDS Day on 1 December, provided an opportunity to unite in the fight against HIV,
show support for people living with HIV and remember those who have died from an AIDSrelated illness.
It should also have prompted us to question our own HIV status. Too many people only get tested when they think they are at risk.
In reality, being tested should be part of our annual health check-up, whether we are in a monogamous relationship or not.
And if you know your behaviour has put you at a greater risk of contracting the disease, you should get yourself tested immediately.
I thus urge all public servants to contact their internal employee health and wellness units or to contact their nearest public health facilities for a free HIV test.
It is vital that the public service lead by example in answering government’s call to citizens to know their status.
While many people put the test off because they fear the outcome, there is power in knowledge.
Starting treatment before your immune system is too weak will allow you to live a full, productive life despite being HIV-positive.
The life expectancy for people with HIV has drastically improved over the past 20 years
Turning the tide on because of new treatments that help control the condition.
In fact, if treatment is started early and taken as directed, a person with HIV who follows a healthy lifestyle will have a similar life expectancy to that of the general population.
Fear is not the only thing that discourages people from getting tested.
Despite widespread knowledge that HIV and AIDS can affect anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender or ethnicity, the disease is still marred by stigma.
This does huge damage to South Africa’s HIV response and creates untold misery for people living with the disease.
We need to help HIV-positive people reach their full potential by treating them with compassionate, dignity and respect.
In addition, we must help dispel misconceptions about how HIV is transmit ted and what it means to live with the disease today.
With around 7.2 million South Africans carrying the virus, the country has made huge strides in its battle against HIV.
Despite a slow start, today we have the largest antiretroviral (ARV) therapy programme in the world.
Over five million South Africans are on ARVs and of these, 4.6 million people receive free treatment at public health facilities.
The number of people receiving treatment has grown rapidly over the years.
By comparison, Turning the tide on in December 2013, only 2.6 million people were receiving ARVs.
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