National Launch of U=U

On Tuesday, 7 May 2024 history was made at the KwaDlamini Sports ground, Ntabamhlope, Inkosi Langalibalele Municipality in uThukela District as South Africa proudly hosted the national launch of the groundbreaking U=U campaign. While this campaign had previously been launched with the support of TB HIV Care in the Eastern Cape (2022) and the Western Cape (2023), the national launch brought together leaders, advocates and communities in a spectacular showcase of unity and determination to end HIV transmission.

Michelle Carey (Demand Creation Manager)  attended the event with TB HIV Care CEO Prof Harry Hausler, and many of our PPPrev DREAMS team members from KwaZulu-Natal. According to Prof Hausler, “This is an important milestone in our efforts to end HIV in South Africa. Undetectable equals Untransmittable (U=U) means that people living with HIV (PLHIV) who take daily antiretroviral treatment (ART) can decrease the amount of HIV in their blood to the point that it is not detectable and at that point, will not transmit HIV onto their sexual partners. This empowers PLHIV to start and stay on ART both to protect their own health and the health of their sexual partners. We must implement U=U treatment literacy across all of our programmes, starting from the time of HIV testing, at the initiation of ART and throughout the HIV treatment journey. We should motivate PLHIV to come for their first viral load 3 months after initiating treatment and to celebrate when they have achieved an undetectable viral load.”

The event was graced by esteemed speakers who echoed the resounding message of hope and empowerment. Welcoming the campaign to KwaZulu-Natal, MEC Ms Nomagugu Simelane not only endorsed U=U as a game-changer but also highlighted its pivotal role in the progress of the fight against HIV. Ms. Saira Johnson-Qureshi, PEPFAR Country Coordinator, reaffirmed PEPFAR’s commitment to eradicating HIV by 2030, inspiring attendees with her dedication.

A particularly poignant moment came with the address by SANAC CEO Thembisile Xulu, who not only championed the U=U campaign but also emphasised the importance of prevention methods and HIV testing. Xulu’s words served as a reminder that knowledge is power and that understanding one’s HIV status is crucial in safeguarding both individual health and community well-being.

Dr. Joe Phaahla, Minister of Health, delivered a keynote address that underscored the significance of the U=U campaign in transforming the landscape of the HIV response across the nation. His words resonated deeply, setting the tone for a future of success and commitment.

Amidst the speeches and presentations, the atmosphere was electrified with the spirit of unity and determination. Attendees, numbering in the hundreds, engaged in traditional singing, dancing, and ululating, infusing the event with energy and optimism. It was a testament to the resilience and strength of South African people.

While every aspect of the launch was remarkable, special recognition must be given to the uThukela TB HIV Care team, led by Mpume Manyoni. Their dedication, professionalism, and warmth were evident throughout the day.

As the event drew to a close, the echoes of optimism and determination lingered in the air. As we said our goodbyes, the uThukela TB HIV Care team’s pledge to uphold the highest standards of service delivery serves as a reminder that together, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions.