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Advice: HIV and Aids - Rather be safe than sorry

World Aids Day takes place on 1 December. Since it also marks the beginning of the holiday season, people are encouraged to practice safe sex during this time. 
The festive period is a time when many people relax and drink too much alcohol. One of the major effects of alcohol is that it affects your ability to make the right decisions. This often leads to unprotected sex. 
Young People
In South Africa about 5,54 million people were living with HIV and Aids in 2005. Of this number 18,8 per cent are people between the ages of 15 and 49. There is a sharp rise in the infection rate in the 25 to 29 age group. 
Major causes of the infection rate rise in youth is unprotected sex, many different sexual partners, alcohol and drug abuse and infection with other sexually transmitted diseases. 
National Strategic Plan
Through the National Strategic Plan for HIV and Aids, government has set a target of reducing the number of new infections by at least 50 per cent by 2011.
The plan also aims to reduce the effects of HIV and Aids on individuals, families, communities and society. This will be done by making it easier for everyone who lives with HIV and Aids to get treatment, care and support. 
The key messages of the plan is prevention; treatment, care and support; human and legal rights; and monitoring and research. 
The National Strategic Plan for HIV and Aids does not only involve government, but is a partnership between com-munities, religious groups, people living with HIV and Aids, voluntary groups and every South African. 
Winning the battle
Studies show that government campaigns that focus on prevention through responsible behaviour are slowly beginning to help win the battle against the disease. The number of pregnant women who are HIV positive is going down. In the 15 to 19 year age group HIV has dropped from 13,7 per cent in 2006 to 12,9 per cent in 2007. There was also a drop in the 25 to 29 year age group from 38,7 per cent in 2006 to 37,9 per cent in 2007. So far, about 450 000 people are getting antiretroviral treatment. 
Rather be safe
So, to reduce the number of HIV and Aids infections, government is calling on all South Africans to be responsible and practice safe sex at all times. This means using condoms and being faithful to one partner, or to abstain. 
But whatever you do during this holiday period, do it responsibly and safely. Rather be safe than sorry - acting responsibly will prevent regrets later in the year. 
- Muzi Mkhwanazi
The Department of Health will advise you.