Residents raise Aids awareness

Lee Ann Diedericks, Joshua Hendricks, Jaime November and Braam November.

A fun run was held in Northpine last Saturday to raise awareness about Aids.

The Northpine City Improvement District (NCID) organised the run to mark World Aids Day on December 1. Its director, Elbiena Diedericks, said it was a way to break down the stigma around Aids while encouraging people to get tested so they could know their status.

“We want them to know that Aids is not a death sentence; people can live a normal life as long as they can take their treatment and live a healthy life. There is no need for them to commit suicide.”

While the turn-out was not great, Ms Diedericks said they hoped to make it an annual event that would attract more people in future.

“We are targeting everyone to come and join us because we believe HIV and Aids affect everyone. It doesn’t affect only the person who has it but also the family and the community. And you cannot run away from it.”

She urged people to abstain, be faithful to one partner or practise safe sex to avoid getting infected. “

There is no excuse to perform unprotected sex. Government provided condoms for free to everyone who is sexually active.”

NCID vice-chairperson Owen Kiewietz said communities needed to work together to combat Aids and it was important for parents to talk their children about it.

“Children these days are exposed to sex, and that is why it is important to encourage them to abstain from sex or use a condom when having sexual intercourse,” said Mr Kiewietz. One of the participants, Bjorn Adams, 34, said he felt good about doing something helpful for his community.

“I hope more people will join next year,” he said. “HIV can be prevented if people can use condoms or abstain. And people can disclose their status so they can get help and also break down the stigma.”

Kereshe Solomons, 49, said the event was the first of its kind in the area.

“I used to participate in events like this in other areas. This is the first time to have an event like this in the area. I came here to enjoy myself in the fun run and get to know my community better. But most importantly, to give support to the people living with HIV and Aids.”

Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo said the provincial Health Department had made some good strides against HIV/Aids.

More than 1.3 million HIV tests had been done between January and December 2016 — 61% of them on females and 39% on males. By the end of September of this year, almost 250 000 people in the province were on antiretroviral therapy.

“In 2016/17 the department achieved a 0.8% mother-to-child HIV transmission rate,” she said.

“People living with HIV can stay healthy through continuously taking their medication along with eating healthy, exercising routinely and taking care of their mental, emotional and sexual health,” she said.