The alarm has sounded on the second wave of the pandemic in South Africa. A scenario that amidst the festivities of the holiday season is rife with concern and a sense of doom. A fateful situation that has been put down to a relaxing of personal protection protocols, large events and a rise in the number of cases in the 15 to 19-year-old age group.Similarly, new HIV infections are highest in youth aged 10- 19 years of age and young girls are three times more likely than adolescent boys to be infected.
Research has shown that this can be attributed to a low perception of risk amongst this age category for getting HIV infection as well as older male partners who are usually in a better financial status than the female, making it difficult for the female to negotiate safe sex.“We know that precautionary measures like using a condom every time you have sex are effective in the prevention of HIV. This ties in to correct condom use,” says Dr. Nduduzo Dube, Country Programme Director, AHF South Africa .
“The economic impact that has been a consequence of COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on the socio-economic status of many and this may see the increase in transactional sex during the festive season, which in many communities is associated with excessive alcohol consumption and the taking of drugs, leading to reduced inhibitions and risky sexual behaviours, “ comments Dr Dube.
AIDS HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION (AHF) is the world's largest HIV and AIDS organisation. Missioned to rid the world of HIV and AIDS. AHF has been involved in educating youth to prevent HIV infection through youth-specific programmes of Girls Act and Boys2 Men within the greater campaign of Style Up. Globally, South Africa has the highest HIV burden with 7,7 million people living with HIV (PLHIV). That translates to 1 in 5 people or 20.4% of the population1. Sub-Saharan Africa claims 61% of all new global HIV infections. 10% of this population is young women, aged 15–24 years, and yet they account for 25% of all new HIV infections.
Dr. Dube continues "In handling the pandemic we must draw on our knowledge from HIV infection. We need to know that our youth are particularly at risk. It is our responsibility to remind them frequently that prevention is better than management – there is no cure for either. The message needs to be clear that as much as we need to protect ourselves from infection, we need to support and protect our communities and those who are more vulnerable.”During the Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize's virtual speech, on World Universal Health Day on Saturday 12 December, he appealed to South Africans to do things differently. He was referring to how we celebrate the holidays.
There was a clear message of the power each person has to stop Covid-19 by being mindful of the protocols to keep one safe.
Safety Protocols to reduce the spread of Covid-19 include: Wearing a fabric maskWashing your hands frequently with soap and water sanitizing your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizers, when soap and water isn’t available maintaining a social distance of 1.5mStaying away from sick peopleRefraining from touching your face with unwashed handsCleaning and disinfecting regularly touched surfaces avoiding large crowds especially in indoor venues with poor ventilation.
For more information on AHF, visit either www.aidshealth.org or www.facebook.com/aidshealth.org