HIV is everyone's responsibility, says minister

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lephalale - While many critics have blamed government for failing to win the battle against HIV and Aids, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has reminded South Africans that everyone is responsible for the fight against the disease.

"The battle against HIV and Aids is not only for government but South Africans. We are all responsible and that's why we will go to all corners of the country, encouraging people to get tested to prevent more infections," Motsoaledi said.

In a bid to get 15 million South Africans to know their HIV status, government launched an HIV, Counselling and Testing (HCT) campaign last year. The campaign was taken to the Medupi Power Station in Limpopo on Tuesday, where more than 2 000 employees are expected to get tested over the next three days.

The campaign is a partnership between the Department of Health, construction giant Murray and Roberts and power utility Eskom.

Motsoaledi said in strengthening the fight against HIV and Aids and TB, all health and labour ministers within SADC would come together this year to discuss how to fight these diseases. "Treatment and management of these diseases is going to be the same within SADC as we are in a fight, which we are going to win," he said.

The minister encouraged those who tested negative to look at their results as a new lease on life. 

He further noted that the HCT campaign was being supported by other programmes, including the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme, the distribution of condoms, safe blood transfusion and male circumcision.

Eskom CEO Brian Dames said they were committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for its employees. The campaign is expected to be rolled out at all power stations, where employees will get tested and receive counseling.

"We know our enemy and our role is to protect people from this enemy. This campaign is for the good and safety of our people ... it's a war that we will definitely win,' said Dames.

Speaking to BuaNews, Phindile Xaba, an employee at Medupi, said the best way to fight HIV was for everyone to know their status.

"By knowing your status, you'll be saving your partner and yourself as well as your family. It's not a life sentence but gives you a will to live longer," said Xaba.

Zonke Mthembu unashamedly told BuaNews that he has a number of partners, hence he always carries and uses condoms everywhere he goes. "I always get tested and know my status since I know I'm sexually active."

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said since the launch of the HCT campaign in April last year, eight million people have received counseling, with more than seven million being tested. He said the reason government decided to come to Medupi was to turn the station into a symbol of growth and development to strengthen the country's economy.

"We can successfully treat patients with HIV, even there's no cure for Aids and this campaign makes prevention more important. Let's take this message to our homes to ensure that it reaches all people," Motlanthe said, adding that the campaign will be taken to secondary schools, farms and villages.

The Deputy President noted that since the campaign was launched in higher education learning institutions two weeks ago, many students had come forward to find out their status. - BuaNews