Provincial Employees Lead by Example with AIDS Programme Voluntary Counselling and Testing Campaign
It is clear from our most recent Provincial HIV Antenatal survey that we have yet to reach a turning point in the spread of HIV in the Western Cape. The 2003 Provincial HIV Antenatal Survey revealed an HIV prevalence of 13.1% among pregnant women attending public health antenatal clinics. This is up from 12.4% in 2002.
Of special concern is the rapid increase of the disease in our urban settings where 65% of our population resides as well as the fact that the majority of new infections occur in the under-25 year old age group. In confronting the challenges presented by this reality our Department will over the next few of years put more planning and resources into prevention programmes targeting the youth and women.
This will be done in a coordinated manner working closely with other government departments and non-profit organisations focusing on areas where the need is greatest. One area where we need to be more active is in the promotion of the Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) uptake. VCT is an important entry point for care and support and a valuable component of our comprehensive HIV and AIDS programme.
What better way of promoting VCT than leading by example through our own Provincial Employee AIDS programme (PEAP) VCT campaign from 14 to 19 March. Working in partnership with Service Providers/NGO's: Life Line/Childline Western Cape, @Heart and Cape Consultancy - we reach out to all our employees, creating awareness and providing VCT services. These services are also available at more than 400 sites across this Province.
VCT is important because:
- It is more than drawing and testing blood and offering a few counselling sessions. It is a vital point of entry to other HIV and AIDS services, including prevention of mother-to-child transmission, prevention and clinical management of HIV-related illnesses, tuberculosis control, and psychological and legal support.
- There is a demand, or a demand can be created when comprehensive services are made available.
- It provides benefits for those who test positive as well as those who test negative. VCT alleviates anxiety, increases clients perception of their vulnerability to HIV, promotes behavioural change, facilitates early referral for care and support, including access to anti-retroviral therapy, and assists in reducing the stigma in the community.
- It offers a holistic approach that can address HIV in the broader context of people's lives, including the context of poverty and its relationship to risk practice.
The VCT process is entirely voluntary and includes pre-test counselling. Once you have decided to take the test the nursing sister will proceed with the test. It is a rapid test meaning your results will be available in 15-20 minutes.The counsellor will give you your results during the post test counselling. If positive, the counsellor will refer you appropriately. If negative you will receive counselling regarding remaining negative.
Knowing your HIV status will help you make informed decisions about your life. If you are positive, you can make a commitment to keep yourself as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Therefore I call on everybody in our province to go for VCT.
Contact: Pierre Uys 082 455 5144
Media liaison: Herman van der Westhuizen 082 772 9161