HIV testing not a once-off thing: Motsoaledi

2011-02-14 14:31

Testing for HIV/Aids had to be done regularly and was not just a “once-off thing”, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said today.

“It would be a grave mistake for South Africans to think it’s a once-off thing. It’s a lifelong thing. You have to just keep on testing,” Motsoaledi said at the launch of a testing campaign targeting first-year university students in Johannesburg.

He said the widespread testing and counselling programme launched last year was “progressing well”.

“We have now reached close to 6 million people,” he said.

President Jacob Zuma was tested last year during the launched of the campaign, which runs until June 2011.

Motsoaledi said that although there was now a heightened awareness of the need for all South Africans to get tested, it was important they continued being tested throughout their lifetimes – and long after the conclusion of the campaign.

South Africa has about 5.7 million people living with HIV, the virus that causes Aids.

The First Things First campaign launched today – a public-private partnership – will target first-year students at 18 universities across the country.

Motsoaledi hoped the programme would be an annual feature of the orientation week at various universities.

Getting tested is only one of nine HIV-preventative measures but was arguably one of the most important, he said.

Other preventative measures included medical male circumcision – in KwaZulu-Natal 17 000 teenagers were recently circumcised – safe blood transfusion, condom use, prevention of mother-to-child transmission and post-exposure prophylaxis for rape victims.

South Africa, said Motsoaledi, boasted “100 percent” safe blood transfusions.

“If you get HIV from a blood transfusion, it will be one in a million,” he said.

Addressing students at the University of the Witwatersrand medical school in Parktown, he said the true extent of the HIV pandemic in South Africa was often questioned.

“People think we are exaggerating,” he said.

“I will give you the facts. You will make up your own mind,” he told students.

One of the best ways of gauging the problem was to look at the prevalence of HIV among pregnant women, an annual prognosis conducted by the health department.

Motsoaledi said in 1990, there was a 0.7% HIV prevalence among pregnant women, but this rose to 29.3% in 2008.
“It just grew under our noses,” he said.

Women were the hardest hit by the pandemic, and most of those who contracted the virus were in their child-bearing years.
“Young women are not supposed to die like this, when they are 30.

“The female species is supposed to outlive the male, but in South Africa, this is not the case.

“This is about you. It’s young girls who are suffering,” he said.

In South Africa, the highest prevalence of HIV is in KwaZulu-Natal, followed by Mpumalanga and the Free State.

In 2006, six of every 10 deaths in the country were HIV/Aids-related.

“I don’t think it’s because God hates us. It doesn’t work like that. The problem is us. Let’s start correcting it,” he said.

He said 70 000 children were born HIV positive each year.

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