Wednesday, November 30, 2005

SA 'accepting Aids as reality'

Nearly half of South Africans aged 15 and older find nothing wrong with marrying an HIV-positive person and would not have a problem having sex with them.

This is according to the Nelson Mandela Foundation-commissioned Second South African HIV Prevalence, Incidence, Behaviour and Communications Survey released on Wednesday, on the eve of World Aids Day.

"These results suggest that South Africans are accepting HIV/Aids as a reality in South Africa and that stigmatisation in society is becoming less of a factor, especially in urban areas," said principal investigator Olive Shisana, CEO of the Human Sciences Research Council.

The study found that 90,7% of South Africans polled were willing to care for HIV-positive family members and that 79,8% were against the exclusion of HIV-positive children from schools.

Although South Africans acknowledged the government's efforts in dealing with HIV/Aids, a significant number were unhappy with the financial and human resources allocated to dealing with the scourge.

However, only 47% of male, employed respondents and 44,2% of working women -- 50% of them blacks and coloureds, and less than 40% whites and Indians -- were willing to pay an Aids tax.

A "worrying trend" is confusion among older South Africans about whether HIV cause Aids, the effectiveness of condoms in curbing infections, and the purpose of anti-retroviral (ARV) treatment.

It is unlikely this could be attributed to the debate over the effectiveness of ARVs between vitamin salesman Matthias Rath and the Treatment Action Campaign, said Warren Parker, of the Centre for Aids Development Research and Evaluation. While this could be a contributing factor, the cause is more likely "general misunderstanding", he said.

The study found that 66% of those interviewed did not think they were at risk of being infected -- because they were faithful to one partner, trusted their partner and always used condoms.

However, some of these respondents were later found to be HIV-positive in tests conducted as part of the study.

"Put it in another way, over two million people who are HIV-positive in South Africa do not think they are at risk. This means they may be unaware of their risk of potentially infecting others," said Shisana. -- Sapa