Premier Zille draws cash prize winners of HIV testing

Helen Zille

Premier of the Western Cape

Yesterday, Premier Helen Zille drew the names of five R10 000 cash prize winners for the Western Cape HIV testing campaign lottery that was implemented in February this year. This campaign was a smaller, more localised version of the “Know Your Status and Win/Weet en Wen” campaign that our government ran during the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children in 2011.

This smaller campaign ran between the 4th and 22nd of February in a sub-district in each district municipality of the Western Cape as well as two sub-districts in the Cape Town Metro and formed part of our larger Behaviour Change Project. As stated in her State of the Province Address, the HIV prevalence rate in the Western Cape is a cause for grave concern.

Although the government fulfils its role to create opportunities for people to avoid HIV transmission by distributing over 100-million condoms every year, we have not witnessed enough people exercising responsibility to play their part in curbing the spread of HIV. Getting an HIV test on a regular basis as a sexually active adult is one of those responsibilities and testing campaigns such as the recent one is one of the opportunities created by the government to enable that.

These are some descriptive figures from the campaign:

* 41 testing sites took part in the campaign (compared to 204 in the 2011 campaign)

* Of these 41 testing sites, 34 were established in locations where HIV testing is not usually conducted in a typical week and comprised mobile units or gazebos.

* 4001 people were tested across all sites.

The data that has emerged from it has been encouraging, making a case for the effectiveness of this kind of focussed testing campaign:

* 45% of people tested were men and 55% were women. This is very significant because ordinarily the gender breakdown of those who test for HIV under normal circumstances is 30% male and 70% female. Thus the campaign saw a marked spike in the proportion of men getting tested who otherwise may not usually present themselves at a testing site.

* 17,7% of those tested self-reported that this was their first HIV test, which suggests that the campaign was able to attract people who normally would not have presented themselves under different conditions.

* 77% of people tested were between the ages of 15 and 44, which is desirable as this is the most-at-risk age bracket.

This campaign is another step in our on-going efforts to provide opportunities for people to take responsibility for their sexual health and contribute to reducing the burden of disease and increase wellness in the Western Cape. We established a foundation with the 2011 “Test and Win” initiative and this campaign has built on that, with one of the lessons learned being that localised campaigns, with a targeted communication strategy and accompanied by an expansion of testing sites, help to optimise impact.

We will use these lessons going forward to fine-tune our future programmes and projects, all of which need to be done in a whole-of-society approach in order to succeed. Active citizens who take responsibility are a crucial ingredient in these endeavours – we can only tackle the spread of HIV better together.

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