HIV testing should be a norm, says Mokonyane

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Turffontein - Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane has encouraged South Africans to go for regular HIV testing, saying this should be a norm in society.

"Let's assume that we are vulnerable forever. If you are HIV positive, you are not condemned but given more responsibility of taking care of your future... Make the HIV feel unwanted," she said.

Speaking at the two-day Provincial Aids Summit, where issues including the reduction of new HIV infections in youth and the eradication of HIV infections in babies were discussed, Mokonyane also called on government departments to do even more in the fight against HIV and Aids.

"We are not doing it for ourselves but for the millions of people who voted us. We must be counted among those who made a contribution."

She urged stakeholders to have many voices but one message, which must be packaged in such a way that it is understood by the youth.

"Talk to young mothers to present themselves to antenatal clinics on time to deliver a healthy baby."

Gauteng has finalised its Provincial Strategic Plan on HIV, Aids and TB for 2012 - 2016, which aims to halve the number of new HIV infections in the province.

The provincial plan, presented on Thursday, was written up using the framework of the National Strategic Plan, which has five goals including:

* Halving the number of new HIV infections in youth and adults;
* Ensuring that at least 80% of people who are eligible for treatment for HIV are receiving it, and that at least 70% are alive and still on treatment after five years;
* Halving the number of new TB infections and deaths from TB;
* Ensuring that the rights of people living with HIV are protected; and
* Halving the stigma related to HIV and TB.

The plan is formulated to fit the national strategic objectives, which are:

* Prevent new HIV infections (including TB and STIs) through a combination of biomedical, behavioural, social and structural intervention;
* Sustain health and wellness to reduce deaths and disability from TB and Aids; and
* Protect the human rights of people living with HIV and TB.

In 2008/09, the province managed to meet 70% of the NSP targets but fell below more targets from 2009/10 due to budget limitations from departments and sectors outside the Health Department.

Member of the provincial Aids Council, Reverend Gift Moerane, said about 500 000 people living with HIV have been registered on ART in Gauteng since the start of the programme in 2004.

Through the NSP 2007/11, the HIV infection rate in the province was found to be reduced effectively by half in teenagers and youth (15-24 years) due to increased safe sex including abstinence, high condom use, reduced sex partners and more HIV testing.

"Condom use among adults doubled over the period; deaths in mothers are decreasing but are still high, whilst deaths in babies are decreasing because fewer babies are infected with HIV and more babies get ART," Moerane reported.

The province also recommitted to continue with the HIV, Counselling and Testing campaign, with a target of getting 950 000 people counselled and tested in 2012/13.