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IRIN PlusNews HIV/AIDS News and information service | Southern Africa | SOUTH AFRICA: Khomanani adds a new twist to love on Valentine's | Care Treatment, Gender issues, Prevention, Youth, Other | News Items
Wednesday 8 February 2006
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SOUTH AFRICA: Khomanani adds a new twist to love on Valentine's


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]



©  Khomanani

Khomanani card used in HIV testing campaign

JOHANNESBURG, 13 January (PLUSNEWS) - If the government's latest anti-AIDS campaign is anything to go by, Valentine's Day next month could mean more than just chocolates and red roses for some South African couples.

By distributing free romantic cards with the message, "It's time to take our relationship to the next level", Khomanani, the government's HIV/AIDS communications programme, aims to encourage more couples to be tested together for HIV.

Cyril Sadiki, Khomanani's programme manager, told PlusNews: "We realised that women readily took on the task of finding out their status, while men tried to determine their own status through the results of their female counterparts. This novel approach lets partners know it is okay to get tested together."

Although the prospect of discovering one's status usually raises feelings of apprehension and even fear, experts have noted that the long-term benefits are vital to maintaining good health and productive lifestyles.

Doctor Vivian Black, an HIV/AIDS clinician in Johannesburg, said couple-testing was especially encouraged, as it promoted family participation, reinforced the foundation of trust and helped reduce the risk of transmission between parent and child.

Black pointed out that pre- and post-counselling sessions had greater impact when both partners were present, as feelings of anger and blame were more adequately addressed. Not only did joint testing help shift some of the responsibility from women, but couples were also able to encourage treatment adherence when antiretroviral therapy was required.

The 2005 UNAIDS Epidemic Update showed that HIV prevalence in South Africa was rising, especially among women aged 25 to 43, with more than one in three estimated to be infected.

Sadiki noted that Khomanani's new strategy had already yielded results at voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) centres.

"There has been positive feedback from many VCT centres, including Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital ... [with] a noticeable increase in the number of couples now getting tested."

Although the success of the campaign has been attributed mainly to word-of-mouth, Khomanani is expected to release a full report with concrete figures from a survey on the impact of their campaign at the end of March 2006.

Sadiki pointed out that the initiative had been well-received by its targeted audience of the 18 to 24 age group.

However, officials from the South African AIDS lobby group, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), warned that the creative and 'hip' approach of the campaign might also entice underaged people to know their status.

Mark De Klark, of TAC in KwaZulu-Natal province, highlighted the implications of testing and possible positive diagnosis of younger people.

He told PlusNews that while new approaches to addressing HIV/AIDS were always welcomed, testing without the correct counselling and support structures in place could have far-reaching, if not deadly, consequences for sexually active teenagers.

"While it is safe to assume that the age of sexual maturity has definitely dropped, campaigns such as this must distinguish between the needs of the various age groups - just because this campaign works for adults, does not mean it will work for youngsters," he said.

"For instance, if one could compare the ability of a mature adult to that of and a fourteen-year-old when dealing with news that they are HIV-positive, you'd have an idea of what conclusions the teen would come to. Apart from suicide rates being what they are among local teens, there is also the immature reaction of revenge by knowingly infecting others."

De Klark stressed that even when someone tested negative, the level of stress associated with the testing process could cause a certain amount of post-traumatic anxiety, which had to be dealt with appropriately.

However, Khomanani argued that people willing to be tested were promptly directed to the necessary counselling and support structures via its 24-hour AIDS Helpline.

"More people are now willing to know their HIV status - the campaign is realising what it had set out to achieve," Sadiki noted. "The focus won't change in 2006, and will continue to focus on testing, prevention, treatment, care and support."

[ENDS]




 
Recent SOUTH AFRICA Reports
Concern as MSF starts handover of HIV/AIDS treatment,  24/Jan/06
Gays and SANBS kiss and make up,  20/Jan/06
Global Fund withdraws support for loveLife ,  19/Dec/05
National survey finds young women most at risk of HIV/AIDS,  1/Dec/05
AIDS activists take government to court again,  29/Nov/05
Links
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· AEGIS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance


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