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This country still written in Afrikaans and red blood

By unknown | May 24, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Is it because I am black . ? Charles Mogale, colleague and editor of our sister publication Sunday World, wrote some time ago in Flipside, his weekly column in Sowetan.

Is it because I am black . ? Charles Mogale, colleague and editor of our sister publication Sunday World, wrote some time ago in Flipside, his weekly column in Sowetan.

I am quoting this because of the experience I went through in the past few days.

Last Thursday I went for my yearly HIV test at a local doctor's rooms in Roodepoort.

Dr LJ Kilian is a white Afrikaner and his rooms are situated at Medgate Centre.

The long and short of all of this is that I was never pre-counselled.

Everything was just done in a very cold, non-consultative and administrative way: a receptionist wanting to know my problem, consulting with the doctor, coming back to me with a form written in Afrikaans to complete, and advising me to take the form to a pathology laboratory next door for a blood sample to be drawn from me.


Back on Tuesday for my results. No post-counselling.

The receptionist again asked what my problem was. On being told, she asked for my name, went through a pile of papers, pulled one out and went to the doctor's room.

She came back, handed me an envelope. And off I went.

In my car, I started agonising about the contents of the envelope. That was the least of my problems. On opening it, everything was written in Afrikaans.

It took me a call to an Afrikaans-speaking colleague to understand what the results were.

South Africa is currently experiencing one of the most severe Aids epidemics in the world.

By the end of 2005 there were more than five-and-half million people living with HIV in this country, and almost 1000 Aids- related deaths every day.

Voluntary HIV counselling and testing (VCT) should be an important part of any country's response to Aids.

The number of VCT sites in South Africa has increased in recent years, with 4172 operational by November.

Despite this progress, there are concerns about the quality of VCT services in some areas.

Reports suggest that counsellors are not always adequately trained, might lack medical knowledge about HIV, and are often overworked.

Another problem is that women seem to be accessing testing more readily than men in South Africa.

Researchers believe that this is because of fears among men that their HIV-positive status will be disclosed through testing, and that stigmatisation will follow.

Surveys have also suggested that some men see no value in knowing their HIV status, viewing such knowledge as a burden.

While I concur with some of the above assertions, my experience last week was a stark reminder that I am black.

The doctor, inexplicably, would not dare see a black patient.

To quote again from Mogale, "in the absence of any other reason, I can only conclude that you are resorting to this action because I am black". Period.

lThe writer is a sub-editor at Sowetan


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