Gauteng goes big with HIV tests

The Gauteng health department aims to test 3-million people for HIV and to put almost 1-million people on to treatment in the new financial year.

As provinces action to align themselves with the implementation of the new National Strategic Plan for HIV and Aids came into effect this week, the Gauteng department of health has announced that it will intensify efforts to test more people for HIV infection.

The province will continue with the health counselling and testing campaign that was launched in 2010 and the main focus of which is to test people for HIV and TB.

Reverend Moerane, a member of the provincial Aids council, says a concerted testing effort would go a long way to reducing the mortality caused by TB and Aids.

The new National Strategic Plan has set a target for Gauteng to enrol 600000 new patients on to its antiretroviral treatment programme this year.

"This year we had expected Gauteng to have more than 500,000 new people on treatment. Next year we're actually making an even bigger demand - that more than 600,000 people will be on treatment in the year. We're looking at over 700,000 people.

"We think these high numbers will actually make us our 80% coverage by 2016," according to Dr Thobile Mbengashe, head of the HIV and Aids unit in the national health department.

But Gauteng has decided that 600,000 is rather modest and it has set itself an even bigger target.

Provincial health department of HIV and Aids head Nomsa Mmope said: "The target we've set for ourselves for putting patients on ART for the financial year 2012-13 is 992,000. Our targets are very high."

Provincial health department head Nomonde Xundu is confident this is possible.

"There's a reason why we increased our target for treatment from 600,000 to 900,000," Xundu says. "It's because we know we can do it. But we rely on suppliers to make sure that we have the commodities we need."

Xundu says preventing new HIV infections is also high on the agenda.

"Prevention remains the mainstay of the response to HIV. I'm looking forward to the day when we won't be discussing shortages of ARVs because of our effective prevention."

In preventing new HIV infections, the national health department says it is important for provinces to also focus on key marginalised population groups as they roll out their plans in line with the National Strategic Plan on HIV and Aids, TB and STIs. - Health-e News

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