EVERY day we are reminded of the grim reality of HIV when we see relatives, friends, neighbours and workmates succumbing to Aids-related illnesses.
Depressing statistics are always at hand to complete the picture of the crisis we are facing in South Africa.
More than five million South Africans are living with HIV, including over 300 000 children under the age of 15.
Recent estimates indicate that KwaZulu-Natal is the country’s worst affected province with an HIV prevalence rate of about 25 percent, followed by Mpumalanga with 23 percent.
The Free State stands at about 19 percent.
Yet these figures are no longer shocking to the majority of South Africans.
What’s rather appalling is how these numbers have failed to jolt us into becoming a responsible people.
As the world commemorates World Aids Day on December 1, we hope everyone will remember there one thing every responsible person, including the poorest of the poor, can do in this battle against the scourge.
It’s high time we accepted that we have a serious battle on our hands.
If we don’t step up our fight against the scourge we will continue burying our loved ones in numbers.
The painful truth, which we will have to live with, is that our salvation lies not in the discovery of a cure but in stopping new infections.
It’s a battle that requires the efforts of the infected, affected and the uninfected.
We must realise that through our actions we either help fight or worsen this pandemic which has wreaked havoc in South Africa.
Experts say multiple concurrent sexual partnerships are one of the biggest causes of the high rates of HIV infection in the country.
The practice, defined as having more than one sex partner at a time, is blamed for fuelling the spread of the pandemic.
However, HIV could be reduced drastically if people stopped having multiple sexual partners.
This is what we see as the biggest challenge for South Africa.
The problem is not lack of information.
It’s our cavalier attitude.
Most men and women see it as fashionable to have multiple sex partners at a time.
And many of them do it recklessly too!
A recent study revealed that more than 60 percent of the sexually active people in the Free State did not constantly use the condom which largely shields against the spread of the Aids virus and other sexually transmitted infections.
Yet the number of deaths from HIV-related illnesses must by now have jolted everyone to change their dangerous ways.
Men and women must be equal partners in making decisions about sex.
It is the responsibility of every one of us to help those around us to know the importance of abstinence, safe sex and getting tested early.
There are those who have tested positive already.
This is not the end but rather the beginning.
Those who are positive have an even bigger responsibility of being role models in society and showing those around them that one’s HIV status does not limit their horizon.
That way we can conquer this pandemic.