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SADC commemorates World AIDS Day 2023

SADC commemorates World AIDS Day 2023

The Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF), together with communities and partners recently joined the global community in commemorating World AIDS Day 2023, under the theme “Let Communities Lead”.

The recently reappointed Secretary General of the SADC PF, Boemo Sekgoma, stated that the Forum has been consistently fighting for parliamentary initiatives and delivery to eradicate HIV/AIDS in Southern Africa.

“The Forum recognizes that in the past years, budgeting for national HIV responses was severely hampered due to COVID-19, steeping inflation, and the rise in other commodities which weigh heavily on public expenditure. In addition, there has been a hiatus in the strengthening of legal frameworks to prevent HIV/AIDS, with issues such as non-criminalization of HIV transmission, availability of prophylaxis treatments, access to ARVs, free testing for HIV, or the prevention of mother-to-child transmissions, often viewed as favours to PLHIV and other individuals rather than rights,” she said.

Sekgoma further stressed that it is now time for governments to prioritize the progressive eradication of AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 to prevent the reversal of the gains made in the past.

According to her, the Forum is collaborating with Parliaments and communities to revive parliamentary initiatives targeted at eradicating HIV/AIDS through laws, budgets, and oversight representations that promote treatment equality and accountability.

“The SADC Model Law on HIV was the first normative legal framework adopted by the Forum, assisting Member Parliaments to spearhead effective measures that could contain the HIV pandemic in a region notoriously known as the global epicentre of the virus. Eastern and Southern Africa remains the most impacted region for AIDS, with only 92% of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) knowing their status, 83% on treatment, and 77% virally suppressed, despite progress in reducing new infections and AIDS-related deaths over the past 40 years. The region is still far from reaching the 95-95-95 targets,” she noted.

“In this vein, the Forum fully associates itself with the UN theme for 2023, “Let Communities Lead”, which echoes with the Forum-led initiatives to promote the participation of communities and constituencies to give their voices to HIV-related policies and decisions that affect them. Participatory democracy activated through Parliaments means that communities are to be engaged through public hearings, awareness campaigns, and widespread media outreach to allow communities to lead and give first-hand feedback on the issues which most influence the national HIV response.”

The annual World AIDS Day, marked on 1 December, attempts to raise awareness about the virus and mourn those who have succumbed to it while also calling on key stakeholders to invest in effective preventive and treatment options.

SADC Executive Secretary Elias Magosi, speaking on the same occasion of the commemoration of World AIDS Day, echoed the call for collective efforts by all SADC Member States to continue fostering community involvement and supporting the development and implementation of local solutions to our local problems to ensure community ownership and leadership in addressing challenges posed by HIV and AIDS and its impact in all aspects of our lives.

He stated that the SADC region has seen a significant decrease in new HIV infections, with 57% of new cases reported.

Added Magosi: “Over 80% of HIV-positive citizens have access to life-saving treatment, and AIDS-related deaths have decreased by more than 60%. Botswana, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania have met UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets, with 95% of HIV-positive individuals aware of their status, 95% on treatment, and 95% with suppressed viral loads. Other countries are on the verge of achieving this milestone.”

He also indicated that in line with the theme, he applauds the communities in the region for their crucial role and the enormous contribution to HIV responses from households to the village community.

“Our traditional and local leaders have instilled the spirit of Ubuntu and solidarity that has always characterized our region. This solidarity has given us the resilience to continue to fight HIV and AIDS. As we recognize communities, let us also advocate for the greater involvement of our communities in mobilizing domestic resources and advocacy to address Gender-Based Violence, which is one of the key drivers of HIV, affecting especially women and girls in the SADC region,” Magosi expressed.

“I appeal to all of us, at individual and community levels, to continue contributing to the fight against HIV, starting from our families, communities, workplaces, countries, and the region. Let us continue to be agents of change in our quest to end AIDS by 2030,” he concluded.


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