The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health has expressed deep concern over the low number of people coming forward to get tested for HIV and Aids, despite the government having increased funding for these programmes.
Speaking to hundreds of people at Bhekuzulu Stadium in Vryheid, in northern KwaZulu-Natal, Neliswa Nkonyeni, the provincial MEC for health, revealed shocking statistics that showed that less than a quarter of the province's population had been tested for HIV-Aids.
She said this was a clear indication that something drastic needed to be done.
She described as shocking "the figures we have that tell us that nationally only 1,7 million people had made use of the government's voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) programme between April 2005 and March last year".
Nkonyeni said this made it difficult for the government to know the exact number of people infected with the pandemic, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal - the province with the highest HIV prevalence in the country.
"KwaZulu-Natal accounted for only 310215 of those who came forward for voluntary counselling and testing under the period in question and this is extremely shocking," said Nkonyeni.
She said that when such information was extended to the general KwaZulu-Natal population, it would suggest that 16,5 percent of the whole population was infected with HIV.
"This is of great concern to us because it is the highest in the country. Making it worse is the fact that this is despite an increase in funding from R35 million in 2000 to R800 million currently," said Nkonyeni.
Statistics also showed that in the Zululand district area alone, only 20000 had come forward for counselling but only 18000 ended up being tested.
The mayor of the Abaqulusi district, George Dlamini, who volunteered to lead his community in testing for HIV, said people were dying in large numbers in the area because of HIV-Aids.
KwaZulu-Natal has 740 counselling and testing centres, which people are encouraged to use. The province has 55 hospitals, 14 community health centres, 501 primary health centres, 100 mobile clinics and 70 non-medical sites.