The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks and gradually destroys the immune system which defends the body against infections.
The virus is mainly transmitted through sexual intercourse but can also be passed down from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding and can also be spread through the transfusion of infected blood, or by sharing needles.
South Africa has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. According to UNAIDS, in 2018, 7 700 000 people were living with HIV in South Africa. It's important to get regularly tested, especially if you're sexually active. Knowing your status helps reduce the spread of the virus.
If you need more information, or need answers to questions, you can contact the HIV/AIDS helpline which operates 24 hours on a toll - free telephone number at 0800 012 322.
Premier Alan Winde encourages citizens to get tested. "Knowing your HIV status is important so that you can begin treatment if necessary and manage your health. Let us also support those who have HIV or Aids, and break the stigma which is still associated with this virus and which has a negative impact on the dignity of those living with it."
People who are infected with HIV face discrimination because of their HIV positive status. If you are HIV positive or have been diagnosed with Aids, it's important to remember that you have the same rights as everyone else.
The South African Constitution and its Bill of Rights protect all people, regardless of HIV status. This includes your right to:
- Human dignity
Everyone has the right to have their dignity respected and protected. A person or institution (e.g. a hospital or company) may not insult or damage any person's self-respect, by their words or action.
You have the same right as anyone else to basic or adult basic education. A school cannot refuse to educate you or your child because you have HIV or Aids. The Western Cape Education Department provides guidelines to learners, educators and parents with regards to HIV/AIDS.
- Medical Treatment
You have the right to make your own decision about medical treatment. No person may be refused emergency treatment. Hospitals or doctors cannot refuse to treat a person with HIV or Aids or force you to take a HIV test.
Everyone has the right to privacy. If you have HIV or Aids, you have the right to keep that information to yourself. Your boss, hospital or your doctor cannot force you to tell them or force you to have a HIV/Aids test.
It is your right to make your own decisions about your pregnancy and medical treatment. No one can force you to terminate your pregnancy because you are HIV positive. If you’ve tested positive for HIV you should tell your partner so that they can be protected and also have an HIV test.
People with HIV or Aids can choose what kind of work they want to do. For example, you cannot be prevented from becoming a teacher or health care worker because you are HIV positive or have been diagnosed with Aids.
Everyone has the right to have access to adequate housing. People living with HIV or Aids may not be refused a subsidy or loan to buy a house. Evicting a person from a house or flat because of their health is illegal.
- Social grant
You have the right to a disability grant if you are too ill to support yourself or your family.
- Freedom of expression
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom to receive or give out information or ideas. This right is important as a way to ensure that the proper information about how to prevent HIV is available in schools or prisons.
- Freedom of association
Everyone has the right to freedom of association. You can join any organisation or group you choose. You cannot be forcefully separated from other people.
- Freedom of movement
All citizens have the right to enter, to remain in and live anywhere in the country. If you have HIV or Aids, you are free to move around the country.
- Labour relations
Everyone has the right to fair labour practices. No person may be unfairly treated or discriminated against at work.
Everyone has a right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being.