CAPE TOWN, July 16 (Xinhua) -- South African Deputy President David Mabuza pledged on Tuesday to put every HIV patient in the country on treatment.
"As government, we wish to commit to a re-invigorated response to this epidemic by prioritizing primary prevention and ensuring that everyone who needs treatment is put on treatment," Mabuza said at the launch of the UNAIDS Global Report 2019 in Eshowe, KwaZulu-Natal province.
Eshowe was chosen by UNAIDS to host the official launch of this report in view of its remarkable and outstanding efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
"This community has shown us what we can achieve if we work smart and work together," Mabuza said in his capacity as chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC).
Assisted by Doctors' without Borders (MSF), Eshowe has reached the 90-94-95 targets: 90 percent of people living with HIV know their status, 94 percent of those are on antiretroviral treatment and 95 percent of those have a suppressed viral load.
This achievement was ahead of the 2020 global 90-90-90 targets set by the UN.
According to the UNAIDS report, 770,000 people died of HIV/AIDS worldwide in 2018, only a 30,000 reduction from 2017, compared to 800,000 in 2017 and 840,000 in 2016.
The report noted that the international community is still far away from achieving the goal of cutting HIV/AIDS deaths by 50 percent by 2020, to less than 500,000 per year. This goal was endorsed by UN member states in 2016.
The report highly commends South Africa's success in reducing new HIV infections by more than 40 percent and AIDS-related deaths by around 40 percent since 2010.
South Africa, which has the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence in the world, intends to test and treat at least 6.2 million people with HIV by 2020. The country currently puts more than 4.2 million people on antiretroviral treatment.
According to Mabuza, stigma and discrimination have been shown to be the most potent factors in fuelling the spread of the epidemic and causing premature deaths for those infected in his country.
With its Human Rights Plan launched by the government in June this year, South Africa aims to eradicate the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV and tuberculosis (TB) and to call out the prejudice that has fuelled it, Mabuza said.
This plan has a clear roadmap on how to address human rights violations for people infected and affected by HIV and TB, and for vulnerable and marginalized populations, said Mabuza.
Mabuza also links HIV with social injustice, saying that "unless we deal decisively with the challenges of unemployment, poverty, gender-based violence, substance abuse and poor housing among others, we will not be able to heal our society."
This assertion is premised on the reality that the health of any individual is shaped by economic, social and environmental factors, he said.
The poor in South Africa are the most affected and vulnerable to this burden of HIV/AIDS and TB, Mabuza said.
"In South Africa, this phenomenon challenges the entire socio-economic fabric of our society and poses a threat to future generations," said Mabuza.
He said the South African government is dedicated to building an AIDS-free society and placing the social and structural drivers of HIV at the center of its response.