Have HIV test, staff urged

23 February 2004

Know you status, have the test, says the slogan.

And UCT's human resources department hopes that at least 20% of the university's staff will come forward for voluntary HIV counselling and testing by June this year, part of the Direct AIDS Intervention (DAI) programme introduced here in 2003 for T2, T3 and permanent staff.

In a nutshell, DAI provides pre- and post-test counselling, HIV testing and free antiretrovirals. A partnership between Alexander Forbes Health Management Solutions and Right to Care, the programme offers individual case management, an approach designed to keep infected staff healthy and productive for as long as possible.

According to organisational health manager Ottoline Clapham, UCT is now one of only a handful of South African institutions to provide free antiretrovirals to HIV positive staff.

"We're also one of a few institutions to provide on-site counselling and testing."

Those who opt to be tested can elect to have the rapid HIV test, with results, available within 15 minutes, or the ELISA test, where blood is sent to a pathology laboratory.

According to UNAIDS estimates, between 25 and 28 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are living with HIV/AIDS.

In a report to Council earlier this month, DVC Professor Martin Hall said that a detailed demographic model for HIV infection rates among UCT staff had been developed in late 2002, part of the DAI intervention.

This estimates that 4.5% of the university's T2, T3 and permanent staff is HIV positive.

"Because DAI action links voluntary counselling and testing with the availability of treatment, the rollout of the programme will allow this estimate to be refined as we build up an empirical understanding of the health profile of UCT staff," Hall wrote.

Since the introduction of DAI, HIV/AIDS prevention activities at UCT have stepped up a gear. In the three months after DAI was launched, 130 calls were received on the 24-hour confidential help line allocated to the university. In this time, 65 staff also came for voluntary counselling and testing, many of them at the Wellness Week held in June. By December 2003, four staff had registered for antiretroviral therapy.

The professional counselling service is provided by Independent Counselling Advisory Services (ICAS).

The information and testing sessions have started for 2004, aiming for the 20% target. Already 40 people at Bremner Building have been tested. Well done to those who now know their status. Look out for posters and e-mails and check the HR website to see when and where we are holding sessions.

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