6 March 2012
When the government made antiretrovirals (ARVs) freely available to people living with HIV/Aids, Grace Seopela grabbed the opportunity. Now an HIV ambassador who has been living with HIV for eight years, Seopela knows first-hand the benefits of taking treatment.
Speaking at the launch of the HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT) campaign at the construction site of Eskom’s Kusile power station in Mpumalanga on Friday, Seopela urged employees to know their status as this would empower them to make critical decisions about their lives.
“If it wasn’t for government, which gives us treatment, maybe I wouldn’t be alive today … When the treatment was made available to us, I grabbed that opportunity and now [I control] HIV,” Seopela said.
40 000 employees given access to testing
About 80 percent of Eskom employees got tested last year when the campaign was launched at the Medupi power station in Limpopo.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi was at Kusile on Friday to congratulate about 5 000 staff members who got tested during the five-day campaign which started last Tuesday.
Eskom Holdings chairperson Zoli Tsotsi said the enthusiasm shown by staff members towards the campaign was encouraging, adding that 91 percent of Eskom employees now knew their HIV status, and that 40 000 employees and contractors had been given access to testing.
Motsoaledi said that since the HCT campaign was launched by President Jacob Zuma in April 2010, over 14-million South Africans had taken the test.
He also encouraged men to undergo medical male circumcision.
‘Men are still in denial’
“Men are still in denial and in hiding,” Motsoaledi said. “When you ask them when they are going to test, they tell you, ‘my wife has tested’. I’ve since asked women to drag their partners when coming for HIV testing.
“If you are uncircumcised, please come, we shall help you – but you must always wear a condom every time.”
He also urged South Africans to get tested at least once a year.
The director-general of the Public Enterprises Department, Tshediso Matona, commended Eskom for its commitment to beating the pandemic. “Eskom is big, and if employees participate in the campaign, the results will be huge and the message will go further to other people,” Matona said.
Eskom employee Thulani Mashinini stressed the importance of using the testing facilities. “The campaign is going to be futile if we don’t test,” Mashinini said. “We need to take care of our lives; if we don’t, life will not take care of us.”