/ 27 December 2011

No date set for school HIV testing programme

A number of issues remained unresolved before the HIV testing of learners could start during the first school term of 2012, said the basic education ministry on Tuesday.

“[Minister Angie Motshekga] is still in talks with the department of health. There is a task team between the two departments and they are busy coming up with a framework of how it is going to work,” said ministerial spokesperson Hope Mokgatlhe.

She said an exact date for the programme’s implementation could thus not yet be determined.

“We are dealing with very young people and there is a lot of counselling needed before and after … We don’t have the capacity to do [testing] … Our teachers are not trained health professionals,” she said.

Mokgatlhe said the question of funding and resources had to be dealt with by the task team.

“We need to find where the resources are going to come from. We need to establish the number of nurses we are going to need and where they are going to come from. The discussion should be around schools…Are they the ideal environment to test for HIV? If a learner tests, we would like them to have the privacy they deserve,” she said.

Mokgatlhe said Motshekga “supports the idea of learners being tested” but that learners “should continue their testing in clinics”.

The plans for a school-based HIV counselling and testing programme has been on the card for the last year.

Speaking in January, health department spokesperson Fidel Hadebe said the testing would be voluntary.

He was not available for comment on Tuesday. — Sapa