ETHEKWINI YOUTH ARE AT THE FOREFRONT OF HIV/AIDS DIALOGUE.
EThekwini youth were provided with an invaluable opportunity to lend their voice to the ongoing dialogue around the pertinent issue of HIV/AIDS.
Hundreds of youth engaged with officials from all spheres of government as part of a youth dialogue at the Hilton Hotel on 7 July.
The dialogue was held 11 days before the City hosts the 21st International AIDS Conference at the Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre from 18 – 22 July.
Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Performance, Monitoring, Evaluation and Administration, Jeff Radebe said it is imperative for youth to talk about issues that directly affect them.
“We aim to combat the spread of the disease. Our youth are both infected and affected by HIV/Aids and require as much information and dialogue as possible around the issue. They are our future leaders and must be part of the plight to rid the coming generations of the disease,” Radebe said.
Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi said South Africa has one of the highest prevalence of HIV in the world. He said however, that strides have been through programmes such as the Mother-to-child Transmission Programme which has yielded results. “In 2004 about 70 000 infants were born with HIV and currently we have reduced that number to about 6000,” he said.
During a panel discussion it emerged that South Africa has the largest Anti-Retroviral (ARV) Treatment Programme in the world. However panellists emphasised that prevention is better than cure.
MEC for Health, Sibongiseni Dhlomo said South Africa has been commended for its access to ARV treatment with 3.4 million people currently on treatment.
EThekwini Mayor James Nxumalo said the AIDS Conference was being held in the City at an opportune time.
“The Conference will be key to finding solutions to add to the programmes currently tackling HIV/AIDS. We are proud to host the Conference in our City and are looking forward to engaging with thought leaders and experts about how we can achieve the ultimate goal of an HIV-free generation,” he said.
Some of the issues raised in the dialogue by the youth included assistance from government regarding interventions, tackling the lack of communication between communities and access to condoms and contraceptives.
The two-day Children and HIV Symposium will be held in Durban on 15 to 16 July, where critical issues related to the prevention and management of the disease among children and youth under the theme: ‘Children and HIV: Equity Now!’ will be discussed. The HIV Symposium will take place in Durban just a few days before 21st International AIDS Conference. Nxumalo said: “During the Children and HIV Symposium, we look forward to fruitful discussions on topics such as: With the epidemic still negatively affecting such vast numbers of children, adolescents and families, how do we ensure that we include those most in need, those most often missed, forgotten, or excluded-those who aren’t benefitting from traditional policies, funding and programming?”