Pretoria — HIV and AIDS can be defeated, but this requires individual and collective efforts, says International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
"The solution is within us. We must keep in mind that prevention is better than cure. As individuals, we must live healthy lifestyles and make responsible life choices," the minister said at a World AIDS Day event in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga on Saturday.
"We may come from different backgrounds and hold different beliefs, but this much we know: there is no cure for HIV. As a result, the HIV pandemic remains one of greatest challenges. It requires a mind-set shift," she said.
Nkoana-Mashabane encouraged the local communities and South Africans countrywide to get tested for HIV as one of the ways in which they could help defeat the scourge and the stigma attached to it.
"I came here to also encourage men and women alike to lead healthy and responsible lifestyles. The benefits of healthy lifestyles can prevent and delay the onset of non-communicable diseases (NCD's), as well as management of other chronic health conditions," the minister said.
She said people should eat healthy balanced meals - low in sugar, fat and salt. They should exercise by walking, running, dancing or by doing any other physical work daily. Sport in particular, she said, encourages active healthy development that protects and discourages youth from risky behaviours.
"It is my sincere hope that my decision today to undertake a public HIV test will encourage men and women, irrespective of age, religion, colour, background, to follow suit.
"One of the difficulties encountered in the fight against HIV and AIDS is that this pandemic is compounded by other health problems. You all know them: diabetes, TB, etc," the minister said.
Government has singled out health as one of its key priorities, and a lot of energy and resources are being channelled towards ensuring that government improves the public healthcare system.
"Our fight against HIV and AIDS should not be used to reinforce gender imbalances. Men and women carry equal responsibilities. We have a responsibility as Government leaders to show the way, but you also need to take the initiative. In that way, working together, we can do much more.
"We can and we must live up to our theme for World AIDS Day 2012: "Zero new HIV and TB infections."