The National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA) together with her strategic partners launched the 2020 World AIDS Day Campaign under the theme “GLOBAL SOLIDARITY, SHARED RESPONSIBILITY”. However, Eswatini has adapted the global theme to suit the local context in HIV response to, “Eswatini Ending AIDS in Solidarity by 2022: A shared responsibility” and in Siswati we say “Sibumbene!! Ngimi Nawe Sincoba i-AIDS nga 2022”.
Making his remarks during the launch, NERCHA National Executive Director (NED), Mr Khanya Mabuza said, due to COVID-19 regulations and protocols, there won’t be big gatherings of people in the celebrations as is usually the norm but digital means will be exploited this year to ensure that everyone is part of the commemorations. Mabuza highlighted that there was a decline in new HIV infections and at present, the country was at 66 percent between 2010 and 2019. “AIDS related deaths have also declined by 49 percent,” he asserted. He noted that despite the milestones which have been achieved, a lot remained to be done, particularly in the areas of HIV prevention and treatment, in order to eliminate new infections and AIDS-related deaths. The NED then gave a synopsis of the regional events which are set to take place from the 13th November in the Lubombo region, 20th November for Hhohho, 27th November for Shiselweni and subsequently followed by the main day; World AIDS Day on the 1st December 2020.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Country Director, Ms Rose Craigue, said the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the challenges faced by People Living with HIV (PLHIV), women, girls and key population. “Accessing life saving health care was a challenge and the crisis had also widened the social and economic inequalities that increased the vulnerability of marginalised groups to HIV,” emphasized Craigue.
The guest speaker, Minister of Health, Honourable Lizzy Nkosi, in her remarks, emphasized government’s commitment to ending AIDS by 2022 and the need for the country to keep this promise, stressing the fact that the ‘business as usual’ attitude will not get the country there.
“We won’t beat AIDS unless we make huge progress on the rights of women and girls and gender equality,” the Minister said. “It is unacceptable that, HIV remains the leading cause of death for women aged 15–49 years and that poor women and girls are denied the right to make decisions about their health and their bodies. Adolescent girls (aged 15 to 19 years) have experienced forced sex at some point in their lives. All women and girls must have the right to choose if they have sex, and with whom, and further given the right knowledge and information on how to protect themselves.
We need to bring power, equality and agency to all young women and girls,” highlighted Nkosi. She also encouraged Emaswati to never accept that in 2020 people living with HIV are still dying of AIDS because it is not a question of science, it is a question of inequality, powerlessness and exclusion that, we can change.
The Minister also celebrated the commitment of the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini for committing to procure Drugs and provide service providers from domestic public resources for HIV. She reminded NERCHA and her strategic partners that the country has only one year, and two months left to reach the 2022 targets. “There is no time to lose. We can do it. Sibumbene!! Ngimi Nawe Sincoba iAIDS nga 2022,” the Minister affirmed. The event was held at the Royal Villas, Ezulwini.