The spread of Human Immunodeficiency Viruses (HIV) in the Western Cape ends with you and me

The spread of Human Immunodeficiency Viruses (HIV) in the Western Cape ends with you and me

The spread of Human Immunodeficiency Viruses (HIV) in the Western Cape ends with you and me

The spread of Human Immunodeficiency Viruses (HIV) in the Western Cape ends with you and me

“The spread of HIV in the Western Cape ends with me”. With this simple message, the Western Cape today (1 August 2023) officially launched our multi-sectoral undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U) campaign to promote the benefits of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for people living with HIV (PLHIV). The province also welcomed back HIV patients who were diagnosed but did not start treatment as well as patients who started treatment but stopped for various reasons.

ART is not only beneficial to the individual but also their partners, children, community, and the health system at large. ART does not cure HIV infection or remove the virus from your body, but, when taken as prescribed, you can suppress the virus to such an extent that HIV will not be found or detected in your blood. And when it is undetectable, it is also untransmittable, which means you cannot pass it on to your sexual partner.

In the Western Cape, 92% of people living with HIV know their status, but only 59% of them are on ART, and only 21% have had their viral loads (VL) checked in recent months, and 92% of those whose VLs were checked were virologically suppressed. It remains a concern that a relatively high number (273 949) of residents living with HIV in the province are currently not on ART.

Speaking at the launch, Premier Alan Winde said, “the U=U Campaign offers us an opportunity to give the prevention and treatment of HIV the urgent priority needed to make significant inroads in fighting this disease. Our aim is to gives residents living with HIV dignity and hope. This initiative will be driven with the same determination and urgency we used in delivering a world class Covid-19 response. Through this initiative, those in our province living with HIV are given the hope that this disease does not have to determine the course of their entire lives but rather they can grab any opportunity with the comfort of knowing that they are healthy.”

According to Western Cape Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, the launch of the U=U campaign comes at a crucial time in our province. “Following the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our residents were not able to continue their treatment which placed their health at risk. Despite this, our resources and services can now be reprioritised towards addressing a virus that is now endemic in our communities. It is crucial that we all work together ensure that we maximise access to ARVs and address the stigmas associated with HIV, as any person one knows could be HIV positive. It is up to us to end the spread of HIV in our communities through proper collaboration with all stakeholders.”

“U equals U is not just an ordinary campaign for persons living with HIV. This campaign is also an educational effort aimed at informing communities, inclusive of persons living with HIV, of the benefits of antiretroviral treatment. A person who is infected with HIV and who has an undetectable viral load cannot transmit the virus to a HIV-negative person. This is an innovation in the use of treatment as prevention.  The U equals U campaign will promote greater adherence to antiretroviral treatment and result in fewer new HIV infections,” says Neliswa Nkwali, PLHIV Sector Lead.

“I started family medicine in 1993 caring for mostly gay men in Canada. In 1996, when I came to South Africa and life-saving highly active antiretroviral treatment (ART) became available in ‘first world’ industrialised countries it was too expensive to roll out globally. After civil society advocacy and taking the South African government to the Constitutional Court, South Africa started providing life-saving ART to people living with HIV (PLHIV). Before the availability of ART, people died young. Now PLHIV can live a full and healthy life and, when they are virally suppressed, they will no longer transmit HIV to their sexual partners. This is the essence of ‘U=U’. From the moment that a person tests HIV-positive, they should start taking ART and know their viral load. When their viral load is undetectable (at four months), they will not transmit HIV (untransmittable) and remain healthy,” says Prof Harry Hausler, Chairperson of Western Cape Civil Society Forum.

Through this campaign, the province is committed to re-engaging people living with HIV who have been lost from care. With the support in place, we are positive that more people can begin ART, adhere to treatment, and ultimately achieve undetectable viral loads. The spread of HIV ends with me and you. Visit your clinic to find out more about starting or continuing your ART treatment. 

For more information about the U=U campaign, visit:

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Republic Of South Africa: Western Cape Provincial Government.