The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Country Director in South Africa, Dr Erasmus Morah, recently attended a high-level dialogue forum aimed at highlighting men’s involvement in the HIV response and the impact of violence against women and children.
Organised by the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC)’s men’s sector, the dialogue brought together political leaders including Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister of Women in the Presidency, Susan Shabangu, and the Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini. The UNFPA’s Leonard Kamugisha participated in a technical panel that followed the High-Level panel.
Chaired by Mr. Ramaphosa, the dialogue called for a proactive and responsive men’s movement in South Africa.
“This sector is a necessary voice which mobilises society against violence… It is men in this sector who insist that unequal power relations between men and women at home, schools and work must not be perpetuated in the name of men“he said.
The dialogue was attended by more than 100 people from government at all levels, civil society and development partners.
Dr Morah raised three key points during the discussion:
• The UNAIDS Executive Director will host a global consultation to fast track the HIV
response among men and boys on October 6 this year. This will add to the momentum to South Africa’s HIV response, with regard to the involvement of men and other gender issues. The first SANAC Men’s Sector roundtable dialogue in 2013, under the theme “Not In Our Name”, targeted abusive men with key messages of discouragement from fellow men.
• The biggest challenge facing South Africa’s HIV response today is the high levels of new HIV
infections among young women and girls. This is a problem that must be solved with the involvement of men and boys. Men are a major part of the solution.
• A key intervention will be the protection of young women and girls as well as to locate older men who are HIV positive and don’t know it. Approximately 1 in 3 men in South Africa could be HIV positive but unaware of it. The intervention aims to link them to treatment and teach them preventative measure to stop the spread of the virus. One of the efforts will be through UNAIDS ‘90–90–90: an ambitious treatment target to help end the AIDS epidemic. It states that by 2020, 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 90% of all people with HIV will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90% of them will have viral suppression.
There were four major outcomes of the high-level dialogue: 1) commitment to institutionalize men’s organizations working the area of health and social justice; 2) promulgation of the South African Men’s Charter; 3) launch of the Men’s HIV Counselling and Testing Campaign and Programme of Action in support of 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, and 4) the unveiling the South African Men of the Year Awards to celebrate men who are good role models.