As part of the observance of World AIDS Day in South Africa, the ANC Youth League says it’s working toward an ambitious goal. That is, to have a zero HIV infection rate among young people by the year 2014.
The ANC Youth League says the HIV/AIDS pandemic “remains a key challenge confronting young people today.” Spokesperson Zizi Kodwa says part of that challenge is overcoming the stigma surrounding the disease.
He says, "Part of the problem among young people is that what kills them is not only the disease, they don’t know how to disclose. And when it’s discovered, sometimes it’s discovered at late stages. So, these are the issues through public platforms that we will be using as part of our engagement."
While UN statistics show HIV/AIDS spreading rapidly among 15 to 24-year-olds, Mr. Kodwa says local studies show some encouraging trends.
"There are quite interesting statistics also available, which are done by a number of research institutes, which are conducted throughout the country. Overwhelming, they show a decline in new infections at the moment. They also indicate that there’s a rise in terms of awareness, use of condoms, particularly among the young women," he says.
Nevertheless, health officials say women are more vulnerable to HIV than men for a number of reasons. Besides the biological reasons, there are the social, such as the fact that a woman often does not have the power to refuse to have sex.
"Most countries in Africa – and I would imagine also in Europe – they are still rooted in their cultures, beliefs and superstitions. That men still impose themselves as people who cannot be asked and women are simple sex objects. And that this is a point, among other things, that we must deal with if we are to win," he says.
The ANC Youth League spokesman also says South Africa tries to deal with AIDS prevention by addressing poverty.
"We are one of the few countries in the entire world that are giving free condoms. Many countries, including in Europe, condoms are not free. You buy them. And you can imagine in the developing countries in the continent of Africa that if people cannot buy bread – why would they sacrifice what little money they have to buy bread and buy condoms. And these are the problems of developmental poverty that we’re talking about. That at the same time we address this disease, we must be able to resolve these problems, " he says.
He says the ANC Youth League has mobilized volunteers on the community level to provide home-based care for those living with HIV/AIDS, voluntary testing and counseling and AIDS awareness campaigns.