UITENHAGE-born R&B star Loyiso Bala has been appointed the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAids) national goodwill ambassador in South Africa.
Bala's appointment was announced by UNAids yesterday.
The national and international musician and celebrity will use his public platform to speak out about issues related to the reduction of stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV and gender inequality, including gender-based violence.
He will play a key role in inspiring young people to test for HIV, so they are able to make informed decisions in leading healthy and productive lives. HIV counselling and testing enables people to know about their HIV status, encouraging disclosure and openness about the disease.
"I believe passionately in young people and making a difference in their lives. This new partnership with UNAids provides me with a way to speak to them about issues which affect them. I am where I am today because of the guidance I received from people who loved me and guided me as a young person. I hope I can provide the same inspiration to my audience," Bala said.
The South Africa 2013 Global Aids Response Progress Report states that while progress has been made around reducing levels of HIV-related stigma and discrimination, a lot needed to be achieved by the 2015 deadline.
Gender inequality remains a major challenge in South Africa, reflected in the recent preliminary findings of the Human Sciences Research Council national household survey. Results show that young women and girls between 15 and 24 years are three times (17.9%) more likely to be HIV positive than young men and boys in the same age group (5.6%).
UNAids country coordinator in South Africa Dr Catherine Sozi said the organisation was "delighted" to welcome Bala to the UNAids family.
"He has a powerful role to play in helping us highlight critical issues in the HIV response," she said.
Bala is a multiple award-winning R&B and gospel musician who is well known not only in South Africa, but beyond its borders. He is a triple platinum selling artist with four studio albums, the most recent being a live DVD recording called Love Complete.
He was classically trained at the Drakensberg Boys' Choir and has gone on to carve a long and successful career in the music industry.