“Most of my friends from college died from HIV but people told different stories about those deaths‚ some saying their children had been poisoned‚ others saying their loved ones had been bewitched. It was only Cynthia’s mom who was a nurse that said her child was killed by HIV‚” says Deputy Minister of Social Development Henrietta Bogopane-Zulu.
Bogopane-Zulu was speaking at the Kgosi Mampuru II prison in Pretoria where an AIDS quilt programme marked the seven-day countdown to the 21st International AIDS Conference to be held in Durban.
“In the early 90s other countries denied that they had citizens living with HIV. South Africa is not the only country that had a late implementation of HIV medication. The quilt project was started to give hope to other countries like us‚ and show that the HIV pandemic was universal‚” said Bogopane-Zulu.
She said the stigma around HIV had made a lot of people shy away from openly talking about it. She said the coming conference was an opportunity for South Africans to reflect on how many advances the country had made since it hosted the conference 16 years ago.
Bogopane-Zulu said the stigma was the biggest barrier in getting the country to zero HIV.
“As a disabled person‚ I can testify to fighting to be heard. An HIV free country is still very much possible‚” said Bogopane-Zulu.
She also added she would be embarking on a naming and shaming campaign of old men who impregnate and infect young women with HIV.