72 000 new infections in 6 months
Rustenburg - Over 72 000 people in North West province tested HIV positive in the last six months, said Health and Social Development MEC Magome Masike.
Speaking at an event in Boitekong village near Rustenburg to mark World Aids Day, he said the new infections were detected during the HIV counselling and testing campaign that was launched on April 30.
"I am very disturbed to learn that a total of 72 279 have tested HIV positive with 42 262 people being referred for relevant treatment,” said Masike.
He said the aim was to test one million people by the end of the campaign in June next year. The province has a population of about 3.2 million people.
Masike said Boitekong was chosen to host the World Aids Day event on Wednesday because it fell in a mining area and miners are considered to be a high risk group when it came to HIV/Aids exposure.
He said the country needed to revisit its approach on HIV and ensure that preventative activities were encouraged.
“We cannot sustain a department, let alone the country's health system, through curative approaches,” he explained.
Masike encouraged those who test negative for HIV to spread the news about how they protect themselves.
"It is also important for them to (tell us) how they are going to remain negative and help us curb the spread of new infections," he said.
The MEC said it was important to build a strong community-based support system for those who do live with the virus.
"They need us and we all need each other. We need to move away from blame to care, we need to move away from being scared communities, we need to support each other and stop talking fatal language and being judgmental. Our approach needs to be rights based and ensure that the rights of all citizens are respected,” Masike said.
He encouraged everyone at the event to be tested if they don't know their status.
"This could be today at the testing stations or at your nearest health facility. Remember, it’s your right to know your HIV status, it is also your responsibility to lead a healthy life and this can be achieved through your active participation in the fight against HIV.
"We all have rights as much as we all have responsibilities. It is not only the responsibility of the department to protect your rights but it is also your responsibility to protect the rights of others. HIV calls for shared rights, shared responsibilities,” he said.