BY METHEMBE SIBANDA
GOVERNMENT on Tuesday launched an HIV and Aids programme targeting the Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) sector, reportedly the hardest hit by the pandemic.
Speaking during the launch, registrar of co-operative societies in the Ministry of Women Affairs Thabani Shoko said over the years the informal sector had been lagging behind in terms of HIV responses, and yet it constitutes the majority of employees.
“Most people in the informal sector are exposed to HIV due to the nature of their jobs. It is, indeed, gratifying to note that the new strategy has recognised the role of the informal economy in economic growth and aims at ensuring access to HIV services and commodities to employees within the sector,” Shoko said.
He urged the National Aids Council (Nac) to reinforce and expand the unique interventions in the multi-sector approach by continuing advocacy that promotes gender equality and empower women in the most vulnerable groups.
“This means leaving no one behind, and that everyone affected must have access to comprehensive HIV services without discrimination.”
Shoko said new HIV infections had gone down by 50%, adding that the Women Affairs ministry was working hard to ensure elimination of mother to child transmission.
“HIV prevalence reduced from 14% in 2016 to 11,8% in 2020.
I am particularly happy that the new infections are down by over 50% in the past 10 years, and we are moving towards elimination of mother to child transmission” he said.
A Nac survey revealed that HIV has a severe impact on the informal sector, while SMEs have no capacity and ability to disseminate information on the pandemic.