The theme for this year’s march against HIV was ‘you who are HIV positive, you are not dead‘. The march took place on 5th December from the Temple of Faith to the Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, Johannesburg.
This day was to remind people that HIV had not disappeared and there were many things still to be done. Thousands of members of the Universal Church from all parts of Gauteng province came out to support this cause. A total of 800, 000 condoms were distributed on the streets of the city.
Members of the Universal Gospel Choir sang and danced before everyone gathered to hear a moving motivational speech by radio station personality, Criselda Kananda who has been living with HIV for 13 years. Bishop Marcelo Pires delivered the opening prayer.
Tshepo Pilane, of Nhlambeto Health Services, an organisastion which gives HIV peer counsellor training. said HIV is not a death sentence. People should always learn how to take care of themselves instead of blaming others for their own mistakes. In South Africa 5, 8 million people were living with HIV.
“Stop blaming the government for your own acts. Take responsibility for your life. Abstain from sex or use a condom. The government has spent R 60 billion in order to help people with ARV’s and awareness,” said Mr Pilane.
He called on all those who had taken part in the peer counselling course to come forward, stating that they now had to skills to assist and counsel people who were infected with or affected by the disease. Organisations of people living with HIV were a key driving force in the response to HIV/AIDS, gave personal power to people living positively with the virus and inspired others to action.
Criselda Kananda told her story about how she was infected and how she was living with the disease. “When I was diagnosed positive, I was seven months pregnant. I was devastated and as you know when something bad happens, we tend to blame someone else. But as a daughter of God, I went to God, because my life depends on him. Today I am living my life normally like any other person. My 11-year-old daughter doesn’t have this disease,” she said.
Her story made it clear that living with HIV certainly didn’t mean you were dead. You could still be who you used to be in life. Bishop Marcelo told everyone that prevention was better than cure and it was necessary for everyone to know their status. He advised single people to abstain from sex and wait for marriage, those who were engaged should know their status before they married and all married people should be faithful to their spouses.