“It is my right to know my status. Prevention is my responsibility.”
World AIDS Day (WAD) is commemorated each year on 1 December. It is an opportunity for the world to unite in the fight against HIV, show support for people living with HIV and to remember those who have died of AIDS.
South Africa has made tremendous progress since 2009 to turn the HIV and TB epidemics around. More people than ever before are receiving antiretroviral treatment, and people with HIV are living longer and healthier.
However, new HIV infections continue to be a stubborn problem, especially among 15 to 24- year-old girls. Stigma and discrimination continue to be prevalent in our communities, undermining the collective effort on prevention, treatment and care of people living with HIV and those who have Tuberculosis.
On WAD 2019, the Department of Basic Education joins the rest of South Africa to take stock of our collective progress to-date. The latest national HIV incidence and prevalence survey of 2017 has shown that new HIV infections have declined by 48 percent since the last survey. However, a much more rapid decline is required to gain epidemic control. As a sector, we can be proud of the contribution we have made in the overall multi-sector response to HIV and TB in the country. We can count, amongst others on the following:
- Improving the quality of basic education and retaining learners in school until Grade 12 because evidence supports our assertion that “Safe Schools Protect Children”;
- The HIV and AIDS Life Skills Education Programme that has expanded its focus beyond curriculum activities to include programmes to address the drivers of HIV such as alcohol and drug use, early sexual debut, vulnerability through provision of a package of pro-poor programmes, peer education, as well as care and support for orphans and other vulnerable learners;
- Implementation of the DBE National Policy on HIV, STIs and TB for Learners, Educators, School Support Staff and Officials in all Primary and Secondary Schools in the Basic Education Sector which was approved by Cabinet in 2017, which also will strengthen programmes targeting educators, school support staff and officials; and
- Annually hosting the Commemoration of WAD in the Department including build-up activities with educators and learners, as well as implementing a post-commemoration programme throughout the year. This is in addition to participating in WAD events in the country led by the Deputy President of the Republic and the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC).
The national theme for WAD 2019 is “It is my right to know my status. Prevention is my
responsibility”. The theme places the responsibility on everyone to test and know their HIV status. In addition, the theme encourages everyone to take steps in both protecting themselves against HIV, as well as reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others. This means that learners, educators, support staff and officials must play an active role to equip themselves with the right information on the prevention of HIV, HIV testing, as well as screening for TB and other sexually transmitted infections. The DBE will use the 2019 theme to guide activities beyond the DBE 2019 World AIDS Day Commemoration.
This year, the DBE World AIDS Day will be commemorated on 3 December 2019 at BA Seobi Secondary School in Potchefstroom, Dr Kenneth Kaunda district in the North West Province. I encourage all learners, educators and officials to participate in the national programme of action in solidarity with the rest of the world. Schools are encouraged to mark this day in some way. Preceding the WAD, the DBE conducted various dialogues involving learners, educators, parents and community members to create awareness on HIV and TB and put together collective effort on prevention, treatment and care of people living with HIV in the sector.