Speaking at the Kgosi Mampuru II prison, Deputy Minister of Social Development Henrietta Bogopane-Zulu lamented on how HIV stigma is stalling the progress for a HIV free country.
“Most of my friends from college died from HIV but people told different stories about those deaths‚ some saying their children had been poisoned‚ others saying their loved ones had been bewitched. It was only Cynthia’s mom who was a nurse that said her child was killed by HIV‚” she said.
Bogopane-Zulu was speaking during an AIDS programme which marked the seven-day countdown to the 21st International AIDS Conference that will be held in Durban.
Bogopane-Zulu pointed out that South Africa is not the only country suffering from high rate of HIV infection. The dire condition in which most countries found themselves in was mostly caused by denial and ignorance.
“In the early 90s other countries denied that they had citizens living with HIV. South Africa is not the only country that had a late implementation of HIV medication. The quilt project was started to give hope to other countries like us‚ and show that the HIV pandemic was universal.”
She added that as a result of the stigma around HIV, a lot of people shy away from talking about it in public. This causes a huge setback in the fight against the fatal disease.
Bogopane-Zulu said the coming HIV conference is an opportunity for South Africans to reflect on how much the country has advanced since it hosted the conference 16 years ago.
She also made it clear that the biggest barrier in getting South Africa to zero HIV was the stigma attached to the disease.
However, she still believes it is indeed possible to achieve.
“As a disabled person‚ I can testify to fighting to be heard. An HIV free country is still very much possible‚” said Bogopane-Zulu.
As part of the plan to fight HIV, Bogopane-Zulu said she would be embarking on a naming and shaming campaign of old men (blessers) who impregnate and infect young women with the virus.