26 April 2010
South Africa has launched its HIV Counselling and Testing campaign, which offers free testing to all patients at public hospitals and clinics across the country, with the aim of getting up to 15-million South Africans tested by June 2011.
The campaign forms part of the government’s new, scaled-up HIV/Aids prevention and treatment plan, announced by President Jacob Zuma on World Aids Day in December.
The plan aims to reduce the rate of infection in the country by 50 percent by 2011, while providing ARV treatment to 80 percent of those who need it.
The plan places more emphasis on Aids prevention through information, education, the widespread distribution of condoms, and the mobilisation of millions of South Africans to know their HIV status.
Zuma launched the campaign at the Natalspruit Hospital in Ekurhuleni on Sunday.
Speaking to BuaNews after getting tested, 55-year-old Thenjiwe Vilakazi said she was happy because she knew her status and would now make sure she took care of her health.
“I’ve never done it before and was shaking while waiting for the results, but I’m happy I did it, now the challenge is to encourage my husband to do the same,” Vilakazi said.
Vuyiseka Dubula, who has known her HIV status since 2001, said the test saved her life. “As civil societies and people living with HIV, we support the campaign and will go out and encourage people to get tested,” Dubula said.
Dubula also challenged other civil organisations to take the lead by being the first to get tested. “Each and every one must take responsibility for his or her health, and it starts with the test,” she said.
Also backing the government’s initiative was National Association of People Living with HIV/Aids (Napwa) representative Nkululeko Nxesi, who encouraged people to get tested early so that they could get treatment while there was still time.
“HIV is not a death sentence, it is manageable through the government’s new improved measures to fight the disease,” Nxesi said.
“This campaign is for all of us, and we must work towards achieving the target of getting 15-million people tested.”