01 December 2022

The Congress of South African Trade Unions joins millions of people around the world to mark World Aids Day, today 1st of December 2022, under the global theme; “Equalize and Integrate”. On this day when the world all over unites to show support for people living with HIV and to remember those who have died from AIDS-related illnesses, the Federation encourages all workers and citizens to get tested and protect their loved ones by knowing their statuses.

We have come a long way in the fight against HIV and AIDS as a country. Decades ago, an infection was viewed as a death sentence, but these days with advances in medicine and the mass rollout of ARV treatment, many infected people are living happy and productive lives.

But this fight is far from over because we still witness unacceptable high levels of infection amongst young people, with an estimated overall HIV prevalence rate of adults between 15 and 49, at an estimated 19.6% of the population. Further to this, Stats SA has reported that since 2020 there has been a slight increase in HIV-related deaths, despite efforts to ensure antiretroviral treatment rollout during the Covid-19 pandemic was administered. It is evident that the Covid-19 pandemic was to an extent, a disruption in the HIV prevention and treatment programs in South Africa with an estimated overall HIV prevalence rate of approximately 13,7% among the South African population.

The current alarming state of new infections, and lower uptake of prevention and treatment put to perspective the urgency in ensuring that there is adequate awareness, advocacy, and education with regards to the virus. All stakeholders need to jointly tackle the underlying causes that leads young people to engage in risky sexual behaviour, alcohol, and drug abuse as well as the toxic phenomenon of sugar daddies that is mostly caused by poverty, exacerbating the percentage of adolescent girls and young women contracting HIV as they are three times more likely to acquire HIV than their male counterparts.

COSATU’s HIV/AIDS policy highlights the importance of education, awareness, promotion of safer sex, encouraging people to get tested for HIV and receiving counselling, prevention, and non-discrimination. It is with these core principles that all stakeholders should plan toward a future where HIV, TB and STIs are no longer a threat to public health.

HIV stigma remains a large part of our society, it is important we remove the stigma surrounding the disease. This contributes towards people failing to seek and access antiretroviral treatment as well as prevention programmes, testing and disclosing of ones HIV status. The AIDS epidemic has inflicted the single greatest reversal in the history of human development and has become the greatest challenge of our generation.

We need to send a clear message that silence is death. The Federation also challenges all fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers to support and affirm the rights of women, as women experience a much more prejudice when they are infected with HIV.

The Federation has worked tirelessly in ensuring there is awareness on HIV and AIDS. There is no doubt that AIDS kills, and that poverty kills, our priority is that we seek to defeat both deadly leading factors that influence HIV infections which are HIV and poverty. We call on all South Africans to acknowledge the virus as a chronic disease that is manageable, where a person with HIV can live a fulfilled and healthy life.

We continue to strengthen campaigns that focus on highlighting the importance of HIV prevention and testing, adequate education, advocacy and awareness as well as the critical impact of antiretroviral treatment rollout. It is through the active participation and awareness of all South Africans that we destigmatise HIV and AIDS, and we achieve a society that can be compassionate towards those living with HIV and give awareness and support to prevent any new infections.

Issued by COSATU

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794