Sonke celebrates many milestones on World AIDS Day

On World AIDS Day Sonke celebrates the many victories in the global AIDS response and congratulates all our partners and other activists who have fought so tenaciously to ensure millions who need HIV services now have access to them. We also congratulate the South African government for its remarkable accomplishment of getting 3.1 million people on treatment and urge them to address the health systems gaps that threaten to undermine this hugely impressive achievement.

Alongside this affirmation, we note with concern that AIDS mortality is rising rapidly amongst adolescents, especially those born with HIV, and call on government to expand community based and adolescent friendly services to ensure adolescents can enjoy their constitutional right to health, dignity and equality.

We call for renewed attention to addressing the gender inequalities and harmful gender norms that drive HIV and AIDS and, together with our nearly forty civil society partners in the GBV NSP Campaign, continue to insist that the South African government implements a fully costed national strategic plan that urgently addresses gender based violence and promotes women’s rights. We will not defeat AIDS if we fail to advance women’s rights.

Similarly, we call on our government, the UN system and bilateral partners to implement policies and programmes that strengthen attention to men in the HIV response. Study after study shows that men are dramatically underrepresented in the uptake of testing and treatment but very significantly overrepresented in AIDS morbidity and mortality. A new study out this week from the US Centers for Disease Control indicates that across Africa women are about twice as likely as men to access treatment. A meta-analysis of mortality studies found that men who initiated treatment in 14 sub-Saharan countries experienced a 37% increased risk of death compared to women, and AIDS related deaths among men constitute almost 60% of AIDS related deaths globally. Quite evidently, this is bad for men. But it is also bad for their sexual partners, their families, their communities, and the health systems that serve them. When men do not know their HIV status, they are less likely to change their sexual practices, are less likely to use condoms, and neither they nor their sexual partners will derive the HIV prevention benefits of suppressing their viral load, which we now know dramatically reduces the likelihood of HIV transmission.

The article included below was written by Sonke’s Executive Director Dean Peacock and published for World AIDS Day today by the Mail and Guardian. We hope you’ll find the time to read it. Next week in Geneva Sonke, UNAIDS, and IPPF will co-convene a high level global consultation on men, gender and HIV and AIDS. It will bring together experts to advise the UN and its member states on how to roll out campaigns that engage men to transform harmful gender norms and promote gender equality, and it will propose strategies to improve men’s access to HIV services and produce a call to action for member states. We will soon share on our website the literature review and discussion documents we have prepared with UNAIDS and IPPF.

Media Contacts:

Dean Peacock
021 423 7088
072 461 7751

Bafana Khumalo
011 339 3589
084 817 7716