25 January 2010

More SA men getting tested for HIV

HIV testing among men has increased considerably over the last 12 months, increasing from 24 to 60%, a nationwide survey has found.


HIV testing among men has increased considerably over the last 12 months, increasing from 24 to 60%, a nationwide survey has found. 

"The figures show a dramatic increase in HIV testing, particularly among males," said  Dr Saul Johnson, managing director for Health and Development Africa, at a media briefing in Johannesburg on Monday. He attributed the increase to awareness campaigns and programmes having reached people, who acted on the information and got tested. 

He was releasing the findings of the Second National HIV/Aids 2009 survey, which was conducted in all nine provinces between June and August last year. A total of 9 728 people aged between 16 and 55 took part in the survey.   

Of those in the 15 to 24 age group in 2006, 17% of men and 38% of women got tested. In 2009 this increased to 31.8 % of men and 71.2% of women. 

What the study found

Sixty-one percent of all sexually active men and women had ever been tested and 60% of all men and women reported being tested in the past 12 months. About 75% of young men and 78% of women between 16

and 19 were tested in the last year. 

The study found most people think their faithfulness could protect them against HIV. In 2006 26 percent of respondents believed faithfulness was a way to prevent the spread of the virus, compared to 39.1% in 2009. 
People in stable, long-term relationships were less likely to use condoms. Half the women interviewed, who were involved in one-night stands, did not use condoms. Most men and women believed cheating was a norm and pervasive. 

"While there is evidence that the message around the risks of multiple partners is getting through, the message needs to be sustained in the future to further increase knowledge levels and bring about behaviour change," Johnson said. 

The survey found stable relationships were uncommon for younger men. 

"It takes a long time for people to enter into stable relationships, especially for men. Young men have multiple

partners, and have more casual relationships," he said. Both men and women were more likely to settle into stable relationships in their late 30s. 

'When people were drunk they didn't worry about HV'

Alcohol was found to be a big problem, as when people got drunk, they didn't worry about HIV. There was also a perception that alcohol consumption would lower the risk of contracting HIV. 

Johnson said their HIV/Aids campaigns were working and that knowledge of condom use, ARV treatment and tuberculosis was very high. 

About one in 10 people started having sex before the age of 15, which put young women at high risk of HIV infection. Condom use was high among young people and those in "casual" relationships, particularly among males. 

Johnson estimated that Aids communication programmes reached about 90% of the population -- younger people more than older ones. 

The survey concluded that information on mother-to-child-transmission was still fairly poor, and male

circumcision was not a "top-of-mind" issue. Only a few men knew that male circumcision reduced the risk of contracting HIV. The campaign still had a long way to go to help reduce multiple partners. - (Sapa, January 2010)


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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