HEALTH Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has approved changes to the HIV counseling and testing guidelines.
These changes require that healthcare workers in the public sector routinely offer HIV testing to all health facility visitors.
Motsoaledi has also urged his department to move rapidly to enable community health workers to be able to test for HIV.
He made a personal appeal in a letter to health workers to support him to massively increase the number of HIV tests done at health facilities, both public and private.
In a letter sent to health facilities Motsoaledi says he understands the challenges the massive HIV counselling and testing (HCT) campaign posed to health workers.
The campaign was announced by President Jacob Zuma at last year's World Aids Day and is due to kick off on April 1.
"We are aiming to massively increase the number of HIV tests done in this period," said Motsoaledi.
"All health facilities, public and private, will offer HCT services."
He acknowledged that if the campaign was a success and more people demanded to be tested, it would increase the already strenuous workload health workers carried.
"But the scale of the epidemic requires that we take unprecedented action," he said.
"For too long our response to HIV has been a burden shouldered alone by the country's healthcare workers.
"Though you have done so unsupported, it is a role that you have performed with great courage.
"You have managed to provide care and support tomillions.
"This is a great achievement, but it is still a long way short of the number of people who require life-saving treatment.
"If we are to succeed then I will need your help."
Motsoaledi said he was engaging all of South Africa's private hospital groups, medical schemes and healthcare funders, health workers who are no longer part of the current healthcare system and all community support organisations in the HCT drive.
Motsoaledi confirmed in the letter that he had approved changes to the HCT guidelines that now require that all healthcare workers in the public sector routinely offer HCT to all people who enter a health facility for any ailment.
"I have also instructed my department to move rapidly to enable community health workers to be able to test for HIV," he said.
He ends the letter with a call to action: "I want this national campaign to be one massive, unified effort against the epidemics of HIV and TB." - Health e-News