"Good appearance" says nothing about a person's HIV status, and should not lead to unprotected sex - protect yourselves, KZN Health MEC urges young people

20 June 2022

A Person's mere appearance  - be it they are "dark berries" with "cute, chubby cheeks" or light-skinned, so-called "fresh, yellow-bones"  - says nothing about their HIV status, and should not give young people license to have unprotected sex, as this does not preclude them from acquiring or spreading HIV, or suffering unplanned pregnancy that could ruin their lives.

This is the stern warning from KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC, Ms Nomagugu Simelane, who has urged all young people to keep themselves healthy, and ensure that the sacrifices made by young people for freedom  - such as the Soweto Uprisings  - were not in vain.

Addressing young people at a three-day youth conference at Impaphala area in Nkandla on Saturday evening, MEC Simelane decried the fact that up to 1300 girls are getting infected with HIV every week in the country, while there were a reported 18 550 births by girls aged 10 to 17 in KwaZulu-Natal during the 2019/20 financial year alone.

The Province's current prevalence rate for Sexually-Transmitted Infections is 34.6 males per 1000, which translates to about 110 000 out of 3 million men.

The MEC said these statistics were too high, and that there was no reason for anyone to acquire STIs; or die due to their failure to take HIV/AIDS drugs in 2022, because Government has worked very hard to improve access to male and female condoms, as well as Anti-Retroviral Treatment.

The MEC urged the youth to make their freedom count by making sound, healthier choices  - and not to suffer and die because of HIV/Aids stigma.

"There is no need for anyone to die because of HIV/AIDS today. In the past, people who were on treatment used to take medication that could fill the palm of your hand. Government improved and gave us three pills. We've moved on. We are on one pill. So, why are we unable to take medication? Why? Why are people dying because of HIV/AIDS? There's no need."

"Look, when you take one pill at a time that's known by you, why must I tell others? Who must know about it? Nobody needs to, because, if I take BP medication, do I tell anyone? If I take medication for hypertension or diabetes, do I tell the world? So, why should HIV/AIDS be a problem?"

"When you're on treatment, please stay on treatment. We have people who've lived with HIV for more than 40 years because of treatment. We have people whose viral load is suppressed... which doesn't even show when they take a test... because they've been faithful to the treatment."

"By the way, you can't look at a person and think, just because they are dark-skinned like me, or have chubby cheeks, or they're a 'yellow-bone' then they are HIV-negative. You must treat everyone you come across as if they're HIV-positive, which means you must always protect yourself. Always."

"HIV and AIDS should not be a killer anymore. Let's go and talk to our communities, particularly young people, and make them understand that when you're on treatment it's vital to stay on it."

MEC Simelane urged parents, guardians and society at large to raise and socialise boys in a way that makes them realise that they, too, are responsible for family planning, and avoiding unplanned pregnancy."

"Because of the patriarchal nature of the society in which we live, teenage pregnancy always becomes a girl's problem, whereas girls do not make themselves pregnant. It's biologically impossible. But, as Black people... because that's the experience I've been exposed to... we ignore than deliberately. When a girl falls pregnant, they're usually the ones to get expelled from the church. In the majority of churches, they will always ostracise the girl... but not just in churches, but families also do the same thing. Girls are the ones who get expelled from home, but the boys are not dealt with at home."

"That's how our society behaves. We need to change that, because teenage or unplanned pregnancy is a problem that we as a society must address and deal with."

She also admonished older men who prey on young girls, in exchange for material things.

"How does a 40 year-old look at a 16 year old and think, "Yho! She's hot." Where are his age-mates? Why is he not looking at them? They don't do that because they know that their age-mates won't take nonsense. They know that it's easy for these children to be submissive because the relationship is uneven. It's not just a problem for girls. Sugar Daddies must leave our children alone. Leave our children alone so that they can grow up. There's nothing wrong with a 20 year-old growing up with a 20 year-old, because they get to grow up and develop together. Let's all look inward and change these things."

Issued by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health

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This page last edited on 21 June, 2022

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