The Newcastle Municipality’s Special Programmes Unit together with various stakeholders in the Local Aids Council (LAC) convened their quarterly meeting to discuss issues pertaining to HIV and AIDS on September 15 at the Council Chambers.
Addressing the members of the LAC, Samke Dube Manager for Special Programmes said that the municipality can never reach a state of zero new infection without working with other strategic stakeholders. She further explained that the role of the municipality is to provide leadership and coordination and emphasised that as humans, we must stop complaining but try to be part of the solution.
In Pursuit of an AIDS free generation by 2030, the Department of Health has put into motion programmes that will assist in minimising the risk of people contracting HIV by enabling everyone to have access to information, prevention services, treatment and support.
Stigmatization was identified as the calamitous challenge that people are still living under and it contributes to the resentment that people have towards testing and openly taking their ARV’s because of the fear of being judged or being treated differently. Speaking on behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS, Sipho Nkosi from the Charlestown forum pronounced that there is nothing that will prevent an HIV positive person to live a normal life and still be able to achieve something in life.
People who refuse to understand the importance of using condoms are still a lethal problem, they come up with all sorts of excuses to escape using a condom and in the process they forcefully try to convince the other partner that condoms are bad. This is still a challenge that we are facing in the community more especially married people”, said Cllr Lindiwe Thwala.
Religious sectors representative, Rev Koloko, emphasised the need to talk openly about the problem at home and even at churches and felt this would be a step in making sure that stigmatisation comes to a cessation.
“If we freely talk about HIV/AIDS in our households or churches and not communicate this pandemic as a filthy disease, we won’t have a problem of people getting afraid of getting tested and openly living with the disease. By excelling on the latter we would have made sure that there is a decrease in suicide attempts and it will also decrease the number of people that disappear into hiding after they have been initiated into ARV’s”, eluded Koloko
In celebration of Albinism month, a small prayer was held in memory of Thandazile Mpunza who was killed in Manguza last month for witchcraft purposes.
Smanga Kunene from the Albinism Society of South Africa said that killings of this nature are progenies of stereotypes that people still believe in. “It is still believed by many that your muthi will be much stronger if it includes blood of a person living with albinism. Some want to prove the myth that we don’t die and some believe that if you sleep with a person who is living with albinism you can cure HIV/ AIDS”, added Kunene.
The fight against HIV and AIDS can be successful if all spheres of government and the community work together to disseminate information and teach our people about this disease.