Test twice a year: Minister

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Johannesburg - For the fourth time this year, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has once again tested for HIV and urged South Africans to do the same.

Joined by Absa Group Chief Executive, Maria Ramos and HIV activist Lucky Mazibuko, Motsoaledi waited in a queue at Absa's head office in Johannesburg during Absa's HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) campaign launch on Wednesday.

The launch is in support of the Health Department's initiative to get more people to know their HIV status, with the bank targeting 80% of its 35 000 employees nationally to voluntarily get tested.

Motsoaledi said testing should not be a once-off thing but people need to do it at least twice every year.
Since the HCT campaign was launched by President Jacob Zuma last year in April, almost 13 million people have tested, with 65 percent female and 30 percent male adults tested.

Motsoaledi urged men to join women and get tested. "We have a problem with males when it comes to testing and we call on them to join the women and test -- the 30% difference is too much. I'll be doing my fourth test today and I encourage you to test," Motsoaledi urged men.

As part of the department's prevention strategy, Motsoaledi said the department has increased male condoms distribution to one billion, and six million female condoms.

"If you are not circumcised, I can do it now. We want every hospital to conduct circumcision on a daily basis and every pregnant woman to get tested so that if they are positive they can take part in the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission Programme, which will prevent infant mortality," said Motsoaledi.

Ramos said the Bank was launching the campaign because it understands the impact that HIV and Aids have on those infected and or affected by the disease.

"The workplace has proved itself to be an effective environment for raising awareness, providing testing opportunities and offering care and support to maintain the productivity of infected and affected employees.

"It is a well-known fact that HIV and Aids and other chronic diseases have a significant impact on organisations globally and it is critical to actively manage such diseases if we are to curb it. We will continue to play our part in the fight against HIV and Aids in various ways and remain committed to supporting the national department in this regard," said Ramos.

For the next two months, Absa employees will get counselling and start testing in September.

Mazibuko reiterated that it is possible to live with HIV and become productive and successful, adding that testing has become second nature in his life and he will continue testing. He urged people to change the acronym for Aids to 'Another Interesting Day Still'.

"After 20 years of living openly with the disease, my viral load remains undetectable with a 593 CD4 count and I'm far healthier than most people in this place.

"With more practical knowledge about HIV, the more it becomes disempowered and leads to effect sexual behavioural change. It becomes easy to prevent HIV than flu. I enjoy safer sex a bit more since I know my status," Mazibuko said.