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

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

"The figures show a dramatic increase in HIV testing, particularly among males," Dr Saul Johnson of Health and Development Africa said at a media briefing in Johannesburg yesterday.

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 9728 people aged between 16 and 55 took part in the survey.

Of those in the 15 to 24 age group in 2006, 17percent of men and 38percent of women got tested. In 2009 this increased to 31,8percent of men and 71,2percent of women.

Sixty-one percent of all sexually active men and women had never been tested and 60percent of all men and women reported being tested in the past 12 months.

About 75percent of young men and 78percent of women between 16 and 19 were tested in the last year.

The study found most people think their faithfulness protected them against HIV. In 2006 26percent of respondents believed faithfulness was a way to prevent the spread of the virus, compared with 39,1percent 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.

Alcohol was found to be a big problem, since when people get drunk they don'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 age 15, which put young women at high risk of HIV infection.

Condom use was high among young people and those in "casual" relationships, particularly males.

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