South Africans, know your HIV status!
5 September 2011
With nearly 15-million South Africans having voluntarily tested for HIV since the launch of the government's HIV Counselling and Testing campaign, the call has gone out for people to test regularly, and for those not yet tested – especially men – to join the drive for HIV awareness and self-responsibility.
Addressing journalists in Cape Town last week, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini said that, by the end of June, the HIV Counselling and Testing campaign had reached over 14.7-million South Africans.
This is only just short of the government's initial 15-million target, and represents a sixfold increase in the number of people testing for HIV compared to the previous year.
This was the first time, Dlamini said, that South Africa had created a "unified, coherent and effective" public awareness drive on HIV/Aids, adding that empirical evidence indicated that HIV transmission rates had "significantly declined" from 8% to 3.5% nationally.
"The significant achievement this campaign has attained in one year is indicative that we are slowly restoring public confidence in public health."
Men lagging behind
However, the figures show men lagging women, with between 30 and 35% of those who had taken the test being male.
"We have a problem with males when it comes to testing, and we call on them to join the women and test – the 30 percentage point difference is too much," Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said at the launch of a major testing drive by Absa Bank in Johannesburg in July.
Testing 'not a once-off thing'
Motsoaledi added that testing should not be a once-off thing, but that people needed to do it at least once or twice each year. "I'll be doing my fourth test today and I encourage you to test," he said.
HIV activist Lucky Mazibuko, speaking at the same event, stressed that it is possible to live with HIV and be productive and successful, adding that testing had become second nature in his life and that he would continue testing. He urged people to change the acronym for Aids to "Another Interesting Day Still".
"After 20 years of living openly with the disease, my viral load remains undetectable with a 593 CD4 count, and I'm far healthier than most people in this place," Mazibuko said.
"With more practical knowledge about HIV, the more it becomes disempowered and leads to effect sexual behavioural change. It becomes easier to prevent HIV than flu. I enjoy safer sex more since I know my status," Mazibuko added.
'Return to start treatment if HIV-positive'
Of those tested so far, around two-million people were found to be HIV-positive and referred for further care.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, chairing a meeting of the South African National Aids Council (Sanac) in August, urged all South Africans who tested positive to go back to their local clinics to receive care.
The government has massively increased its capacity to care for people living with HIV and requiring antiretroviral treatment (ART).
The number of public facilities now providing comprehensive ART has increased from 490 to 2 001. More than 1 750 nurses have also been trained on Nurse Initiated and Managed ART, making it possible for professional nurses to put people onto treatment.
SAinfo reporter and BuaNews