Launching the campaign, the president of the country led by example in encouraging South Africans to test for HIV in a massive effort to have 15 million citizens tested over the next year.
‘On the 8th of April I took my own HIV test. This was my fourth test as I have decided to take the test at regular intervals. I encourage all to do the same. After careful consideration, I’ve decided to share my test results with the South Africans. It’s an individual decision. The purpose is to promote openness and to eradicate the silence and stigma that accompanies this epidemic. My April results, like the three previous ones, registered a negative outcome for the HI virus’, Zuma said.
‘I want to emphasise that by disclosing my HIV-negative status, I am not putting pressure on any South African to do the same. It’s my decision. Anyone’s HIV status is private and confidential. And I want to emphasise this. Disclosure is an individual decision’, he continued.
But others argue that it’s counter-productive to the fight against HIV stigma not to disclose.
‘I feel like we are playing double standards. When it was the poor, the most vulnerable’¦ ‘Disclose your status’! When it’s now the high-level, the high leadership, it changes. Now we’re talking a different language. We came out during that time when it wasn’t fine, but now we are encouraging everyone else to do the right thing. I’m not saying everyone is brave to tell. I’d like our leaders, whoever that has tested, at least, to say they know their status and what is their status’, said Prudence Mabele, Executive Director of Positive Women’s Network, in Johannesburg.
The National Association of People Living with HIV and AIDS (NAPWA),was concerned that human rights need to be protected as the country embarks on a campaign to encourage 15 million South Africans tested for HIV. NAPWA’s Nkululeko Nxesi called on health service providers to offer a quality service and to honour people’s rights.
‘We know that it is not going to be easy for the country to reach its target. However, we all commit to it. As we will be pushing to reach the target, issues of quality and human rights violations might occur. We, therefore, plead with all those who will be doing the testing to ensure quality. No one must be forced to test for HIV against his or her own will. Ours is to encourage people by telling and showing them benefits of testing’, Nxesi said.
His stance was echoed by the Treatment Action Campaign’s Vuyiseka Dubula.
‘As we go out with this campaign we must not forget that people’s rights should be protected. This campaign does not mean that people should be coerced to test.
It means that people are given an opportunity to be counselled, but also are given an opportunity to be given information, and then, they can decide whether they want to take that test and that test will be the one that will save their lives, especially those that are in dire need’, Dubula said.
Head of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), Dr Nono Simelela, is confident that the target of testing 15 million South Africans for HIV by June next year will be attained.
‘The provinces like Gauteng, I know they are ready . We’ve continuously done assessments. So, where people don’t get the service they need to complain. They need to let us know so we can resolve the problems’, she said.
For more information about the HIV Counselling and Testing campaign you can go online to www.sanac.org.za or call 012 312 5340.