Over the past 30 years, the world has been doing a great deal of work to combat the global HIV/Aids epidemic. Governments and business have pumped billions into aid and research to help minimise the impact of HIV/Aids.
More than 35 million people around the world live with the immunodeficiency virus and South Africa has the morbid distinction of having more infections than any other nation, with 7.4 million recorded infections.
Last year, of the 1.8 million new infections recorded in the world, 270 000 were in South Africa. Although this is a devastating number, it is a massive improvement from the more than 500 000 annual infections recorded in the previous 20 years.
Despite the progress, the global numbers lag the UN goal of 500 000 or fewer infections by 2020.
This trajectory of decline in the country has been achieved through massive effort. After the devastation of the country’s denialism in the 1990s, government has since rolled out the world’s largest antiretroviral therapy programme, which sees those infected given crucial medication to allow them to live healthy and productive lives.
South Africa is also at the forefront of research into the elusive global vaccine.
As we report in this week’s edition, with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, southern African women will be leading the way in this research.
We all need to play our part in this country to bring the epidemic under further control.
We need to eradicate the stigma around being HIV-positive. We need to be aware of our status.
We need to practise safe sex. We need to maintain the public vigilance.
We are all in this together as it affects every one of us. We cannot drop the ball in this battle; it would be catastrophic, considering the progress we have made over the years.
Having celebrated World Aids Day on Saturday, people should ask themselves what role they are playing in this battle and what more they can do.