CAPE TOWN, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- South Africa on Sunday marked World AIDS Day, boasting of its success in containing the scourge.
"Once again we meet on this 31st commemoration of World AIDS Day not only to remember those whose lives were lost to HIV and AIDS, but to celebrate the positive strides we have collectively made in our fight to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030," said Deputy President David Mabuza, who was leading the nationwide commemoration.
Parliament's Presiding Officers led by National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise and the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Amos Masondo took part in events commemorating World AIDS Day, which falls on December 1.
The theme for this year's event "Communities Make the Difference" is a reminder of the significant and important role communities play in supporting and educating about HIV/AIDS, they said in a joint statement.
"This day calls on all of us to strongly unite in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS," the statement said.
Winnie Byanyima, new Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), also joined South Africans in marking World AIDS Day.
Byanyima, together with Mabuza, took part in a public gathering in Klerksdorp, North West Province.
Mabuza said Byanyima's experience in political leadership and human development will undoubtedly "take us forward in the struggle to end the AIDS epidemic."
"Our journey and contribution to the vision of zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths, has been long and difficult," Mabuza said.
There was a time when every week and in every community, the pain of losing someone to AIDS-related illnesses was a common phenomenon, he said.
But now South Africa has been acknowledged by UNAIDS and others organizations as a global and continental leader in HIV response.
"This is precisely because we have adopted and implemented the right and comprehensive policies to respond to this epidemic," said Mabuza who is chariman of the South African National AIDS Council.
South Africa has one of the biggest HIV treatment programs in the world, with more than 4.5 million people on life-saving anti-retrovirals.
The anti-retroviral treatment program has resulted in an increase in life expectancy of South Africans and low levels of mother-to-child HIV transmission rates.
The country is making positive progress in reducing the rate of new infections from an estimated 270,000 in 2016 to 222,000 in 2018, Mabuza said.
"This means that millions of South Africans who previously had no hope of sustained quality of life, now live longer and are able to contribute in building a South Africa of our dreams," Mabuza said.
Placing people living with and affected by HIV at the center of efforts to defeat this epidemic has proven to be a correct course of action, Mabuza said.
Community action remains an important pillar in making change happen, and in shaping policy agenda and outcomes, according to Mabuza.
He paid tribute to men for actively taking part in voluntary male medical circumcision, an area of prevention, as close to four million men were circumcized as of the end of March 2019.
This is a significant achievement as these men were not only circumcized, but also underwent HIV prevention programs including testing services, Mabuza said.
Mabuza said the first-ever national TB prevalence survey results will be released soon, and this will provide a more accurate data on how to address TB in communities.
"Let the future generations hail our work as community and health workers in bringing down the curtain on all preventable and treatable diseases," Mabuza said.