World AIDS Day 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, AIDS and TB epidemics around. More people than ever before are receiving antiretroviral treatment and are living longer and healthier.
However, new HIV infections continue to be a stubborn problem, especially among 15-24 year old girls. Stigma and discrimination also continue to be prevalent in our communities, undermining the collective effort on prevention, treatment, support and care of people living with HIV and those who have Tuberculosis.
On WAD 2017, the Department of Basic Education joins the rest of South Africa to take stock of our collective progress to-date. 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:
- 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 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;
- The new ground-breaking 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 this year, and will guide our efforts over the next term to strengthen programmes not only for learners, but also for our educators and officials on HIV, STIs as well as on TB; 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 2017 is “My actions count! I will prevent HIV and TB in my lifetime”. This is a rallying call for each one of us to be involved in the activities wherever we are. The time for talking is over; it is our actions that will deliver us to a HIV and TB free future as envisioned in our National Development Plan.
This year, the DBE World AIDS Day was commemorated on 28 November 2017 at Dikana High School in Ulundi Local Municipality, Zululand district in KwaZulu-Natal Province. We urge all schools to mark this day in some way. I encourage all learners, educators and officials to participate in the national programme of action in solidarity with the rest of the world.
Let us all commemorate World AIDS Day by:
- Supporting the national efforts towards the prevention of HIV, TB, teenage pregnancy as well as alcohol and drug use in the basic education sector;
- Encouraging and supporting schools to participate in build-up activities focusing on the theme “My actions count! I will prevent HIV and TB in my lifetime”; and
- Supporting the full implementation of the Care and Support Programmes in schools, in particular the (new) 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.
The DBE is committed to progressively provide comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) as well as facilitating access to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services to learners. We will use WAD to solicit learners’ opinions on how best to provide CSE and SRH services in schools. This will be done though learners participating in dialogues and making a quilt to share their views on the matter. The input will be used to inform the Department’s implementation of programmes in a learner-centred manner.
The Department on its own cannot address the myriad of social challenges that learners are faced with in their communities. It is for this reason that I call for the support of everybody, especially parents/caregivers and members of the community to join us in the fight against HIV, sexually transmitted infections, teenage pregnancy and Tuberculosis in our schools.