25 July 2012

HIV/Aids awareness works

Exposure to HIV/Aids awareness programmes had promoted a significant change in behaviour, according to South Africa's third national HIV communication survey.


Exposure to HIV/Aids awareness programmes had promoted a significant change in behaviour, according to South Africa's third national HIV communication survey.

Substantial increases in behaviour that reduced the risk of contracting HIV/Aids were found. These included the use of condoms, HIV counselling and testing, and voluntary male circumcision.

The survey was released at the International Aids Conference in Washington by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

How the survey was done

It was conducted by Johns Hopkins Health and Education in SA, LoveLife and Soul City.

"The data also confirm that exposure to HIV communication programmes have a direct impact on people practising these behaviours," the three organisations said.

From 1992 to 2012, condom use at first sex increased from 18% to 66%. This change was attributed to condom promotion and the increased availability of condoms.

People who reported using condoms at first sex were less likely to say they were HIV positive, the report found. Those who did not use a condom at first sex reported a higher HIV prevalence.

In the last 12 months, 10.6 million South Africans had been tested as part of the HIV counselling and testing campaign led by President Jacob Zuma, Motlanthe and Motsoaledi.

Survey respondents who knew that Zuma had tested for HIV were more likely to discuss HIV testing with their sex partners (52%) than those who were not aware that the president had tested (39%).

"People who talked about testing with their sex partners, in turn, were more likely to test for HIV (63%) than those who did not talk about testing with their partners (33%)."

What the survey found

The stigma surrounding HIV/Aids had subsided, with greater openness in HIV testing and disclosure.

Over 50% of South African men were now circumcised. Just under one million men intended to be circumcised in the next 12 months.

Researcher Lusanda Mahlasela credited "strong and visible" political leadership on the issue for bringing part of the change.

"HIV testing, male circumcision, and public attitudes towards the disease can only make prevention and treatment much easier over the next five years," Mahlasela said.

The survey was conducted between February and May and designed to be representative of the South African population aged 16 to 55. More than 10 000 people, across all nine provinces, took part in the survey.

(Sapa, July 2012)

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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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