New plan to fight HIV-Aids must include moral regeneration

The government's decision to review its strategy to fight HIV-Aids is welcomed.

The government's decision to review its strategy to fight HIV-Aids is welcomed.

Also commendable is its inclusive broad-based stakeholder approach in the fight against the pandemic. The approach has also invited input from the Treatment Action Campaign, which has had bruising battles with Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

This new approach sends a strong message that garlic and beetroot, while good for one's health, are not alternatives to antiretrovirals.

But unfortunately the "shooting from the hip manner" in which Tshabalala-Msimang previously handled this issue has already done damage.

An example of this damage is contained in last week's media reports about a woman who died after refusing to take antiretrovirals because she believed that garlic and beetroot would help her against the pandemic. The woman is said to have refused to take the "poisonous" antiretrovirals.

Deputy Minister of Health Nosiviwe Madlala-Routledge said the review plan will include looking at the staff shortages and the wider obstacles to the roll-out of life-saving drugs.

The plan also includes a commitment to ensure HIV-positive people are in no doubt about the efficacy of the antiretrovirals.

Because it is estimated that about 20 percent of the population is infected with HIV, this country continues to face major challenges in its fight against the pandemic.

Stigmatisation is another challenge.

A key cause of infections is because people are indulging in widespread unprotected sex. Unfortunately, because of the continued gender inequalities, women and children remain the most vulnerable.

They are the victims of forced sexual relations - where some male partners force themselves on to them and refuse to use condoms.

Women who try to negotiate the use of condoms have been accused of being promiscuous.

Women continue to be forced by their socioeconomic circumstances to have sexual relationships with abusive partners.

Ideally these woman should hold the moral high ground and not allow materialistic things to drive them into dicing with death.

The reality is that the choice between having unprotected sex and abstaining has in some cases become a matter of basic survival.

At another level the materialistic value system that we now find ourselves in, does very little to help the plight of our young women.

All the more so because those things that were previously regarded as luxuries have now been "turned" into necessities.

These include high-tech cellphones, designer clothes, up-market townhouses and cars. Some women sell their bodies to obtain these possessions.

In the process they risk being infected because they engage in unsafe sexual behaviour.

With this in mind, it is obvious that the government's HIV-Aids review plan needs to be coupled with some moral regeneration plan to confront society's descent into obscene materialism.