“Suburban” residents bar access for HIV survey

Hands showing lab workers testing for HIV
A healthcare worker draws a drop of blood for an HIV test. Credit: UNICEF Ethiopia/ 2014/ Pudlowski
Patient testing for HIV

A national HIV survey, the results of which will be used to inform future health policies, has the potential to be compromised by suburban residents who have refused field-workers access in to “gated communities”.

This is according to Professor Geoff Setswe, one of the principle investigators for the Human Science’s Research Council’s (HSRC) HIV survey, who spoke at the public launch of the project in Houghton, Johannesburg on Tuesday afternoon.

“Yes, they have previously been a problem so we’re trying to do a few new things, like all of our field-workers will be wearing a HSRC bib and will carry HSRC identification with them,” he said. “Gated communities don’t want to participate because they don’t have trust. We are trying to make our field-workers visible. There will be workers from all race groups.”

Additions to survey

This is the fifth National HIV and Health Study, but it is the first to include sections on drugs and alcohol as well as the relationship between HIV and mental health.

The study, which aims to estimate the prevalence of HIV in the country and what issues drive new infections, will take 9 months to complete and will include 60 000 people living in about 22 000 households.

1000 households have already agreed to participate, according to the study’s principal investigator Professor Leickness Simbayi.

Challenges with access

“However, these are early days… Field-workers have noted challenges on gaining access to some households in certain neighbourhoods particularly the suburban areas,” he said. “To truly inform our health policies and make decisions that will benefit our entire country, the survey must include a scientifically selected sample that is representative of the whole country, rich or poor and of all education levels.”

Sello Hatang, chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Foundation which hosted the launch, said that we “owe it to future generations to deal with any disease that comes our way, especially this one, with dignity.”

“Madiba was strong on this.” – Health-e News.


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