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Homearrow News and Events Year 2010 Zuma, ministers face HIV tests in state's new prevention drive - Business Day

Zuma, ministers face HIV tests in state's new prevention drive - Business Day

TAMAR KAHN

CAPE TOWN — President Jacob Zuma is to spearhead a new HIV- testing drive that aims to get 15- million people — about a third of SA — tested by June next year.

Zuma and some of his Cabinet ministers will undergo public HIV/AIDS tests as part of the campaign, on a date still to be set.

The government hopes increased testing will help curb the rate of new infections, assuming that if people know they are carrying the virus they will do all they can to protect others from it. Infected people will also be encouraged to seek care before they become desperately ill.

The testing drive is part of the government’s plan to accelerate its HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programmes, in line with its commitment to halve the number of new HIV infections between 2006 and next year, and to ensure that 80% of HIV/AIDS patients needing treatment have access to the required drugs.

SA has one of the worst HIV/ AIDS epidemics, with an estimated 5,3-million people living with the disease, and is increasingly hard-pressed to find the money for treating the growing number of patients . At the last count, 920000 people were enrolled on state treatment programmes.

A greater effort needed to be made to prevent new infections, as the government could not afford to increas e its HIV/AIDS budget indefinitely, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told a press briefing in Parliament yesterday.

The initiative will be launched on April 15 in Gauteng.

“Our main driver of low life expectancy and unhealthy life in SA is, among others, the HIV and AIDS epidemic,” said Motsoaledi.

. Life expectancy in SA at birth had dropped from 60 years in 1994 to below 50 years today, he said.

Motsoaledi said he had written to retired healthcare professionals, asking them to volunteer their services for the initiative. He had also written to medical schools and nursing colleges, asking them to release final-year students for five days . The military health services would also be involved .

“This is a big battle for everybody in the country. We are going to let nobody off the hook. If you look at the number of 15-million which you must reach by June next year you need every available resource in the country.”

NGOs have trained 9000 lay counsellors, but they need backup from doctors and nurses.

kahnt@bdfm.co.za

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