Leadership key in getting people to protect against HIV

The call by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini for men to be circumcised resulted in circumcisions in KwaZulu-Natal more than tripling over two years, increasing from some 26 000 men in 2009 to over 83 000 by 2011.

The King’€™s call, together with government’€™s circumcision campaign, has seen the percentage of men who have been medically circumcised nationally increasing from 33% in 2009 to 48% in 2012.

Circumcision has been proven to decrease a man’€™s risk of getting HIV by some 60 percent.

Meanwhile, the call by President Jacob Zuma, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi for people to get tested for HIV also influenced people.

According to the representative survey, which questioned 10 000 South Africans, those who knew that President Zuma had tested for HIV were more likely to think that people should be tested, and significantly more likely to discuss testing with their partners (61% vs. 48%).

There was an almost 10 percent increase in people being tested for HIV over the past year. HIV testing is crucial in identifying people who need HIV treatment, as well as playing an important role in influencing HIV negative people to practice safe sex.

But the survey organisers – Johns Hopkins Health and Education SA, lovelife and Soul City ‘€“ said that the decrease in HIV communication campaigns was ‘€œworrying’€.

‘€œWhile the country has made great strides, decreased investments in communication programmes can undermine the gains already made, particularly around reinforcing and maintaining the achievements to date,’€ they said.

When the last survey was done in 2009, nine out of 10 people had been exposed to at least one communication campaign. By last year, this had dropped to slightly more than eight out of 10 people.

‘€œCommunication programmes are essential in helping to turn the tide of new HIV infection,’€ concludes the survey.

‘€œThe more people are exposed to HIV communication programmes, the more likely they are to adopt and maintain positive behaviours such as condom use, HIV counselling and testing and undergo male circumcision.’€


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