Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Monday implored leaders from all walks of life to be the first in line for a massive HIV testing programme.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Monday implored leaders from all walks of life to be the first in line for the massive HIV testing programme that will begin next month.
“It’s quite a shame that many of us don’t know our status,” Motsoaledi told delegates at a higher education HIV/Aids programme in Sandton.
“We have got our heads dug in the sand very deep,” he said in a presentation that was to have lasted 10 minutes, but continued for 45, as he explained the history of the pandemic, and what could be done to control it.
To applause, whistles and standing ovations, Motsoaledi said leaders—from presidents to principles to CEOs—had to be the first in line to know if they had the HI virus or not.
“The country is burning, they must come out.”
The campaign to test 15-million people will begin at Natalspruit Hospital on April 15.
The Department of Health was also negotiating with cellphone companies to send out a one-line message: “Please come and test now.”
“I will be standing right behind the president and deputy president for my test,” Motsoaledi said.
“In each and every institution of higher learning, the principal will be tested ... Every CEO of a hospital must start a nerve centre and he must be tested first.”
Focus on prevention
Spending on antiretrovirals had increased by 33%, but this could not continue.
“The fiscus will collapse if we don’t focus on prevention.”
Pointing to a slide of the country, with KwaZulu-Natal painted red to indicate that the province had the highest HIV prevalence, he said: “This is blood.”
Forty percent of pregnant women in some areas of the province are testing positive, as are 23% of children under 15.
“... This is what this country is facing,” he said.
In 2007, 57% of children who died before the age of five had the virus.
Even the Independent Electoral Commission had contacted him to find out “why people are falling off the voters’ roll”.
Not all doom and gloom
It was not “all doom and gloom”, but he was adamant that people needed to start taking responsibility for their health and making sure they did not contract or transmit the virus.
It was unacceptable to be told by members of the public that some clinics did not have condoms available for people who asked for them; or that hotels placed Bibles in their rooms, but not many provided free condoms; or that rape survivors had to get case dockets before being given post-exposure prophylaxis.
Motsoaledi was told by his French counterpart that four women transmitted HIV/Aids to their children in that country last year.
“It is about 70 000 in South Africa every year.”
Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande threw his weight behind the campaign to reduce HIV prevalence at universities and colleges, saying that unless there was a collective effort “we will be training young people for the grave, instead of the workplace”.
Statistics released at the conference showed that the HIV-prevalence rate among students was 3,4% and among academic staff 1,5%.
Administrative staff had a prevalence of 4,4% with service workers the most affected with a 9,9% prevalence rate.—Sapa