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SA: Zuma launches health campaign by disclosing HIV status 1


JOHANNESBURG — President Jacob Zuma ‘s public declaration of his HIV-negative status yesterday was a positive effort that could help the fight against HIV/AIDS in SA, Athol Trollip, leader of the Democratic Alliance in Parliament, said yesterday.

“He has set an example for everyone by testing and declaring his status publicly. But that needs to be backed up by appropriate behaviour,” Trollip said.

Zuma declared his status yesterday during the launch at Natalspruit Hospital in Johannesburg of a massive and ambitious government HIV counselling and testing campaign.

The campaign by the Department of Health is aimed at getting 15- million people tested for HIV by June next year.

Zuma said that after careful consideration he decided to share his test results with the public and to promote openness and help eradicate the silence and stigma accompanying the epidemic.

“My April results, like the three previous ones, registered a negative outcome for the HI virus. I want to emphasise that by disclosing my HIV-negative status, I am not putting pressure on any South African to do the same,” Zuma said.

Zuma’s personal life came under scrutiny at his rape trial in 2006 during which he admitted to having unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman. Zuma was acquitted of rape, but opposition parties then turned up the pressure that his sexual conduct had put his wives at risk of contracting HIV.

Zuma’s personal life recently came under the spotlight again when he admitted to fathering a child out of wedlock with soccer boss Irvin Khoza’s daughter Sonono.

But Zuma’s revelation yesterday has raised eyebrows, with some analysts questioning his motives.

Steven Friedman, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, asked: “Why has he waited so long to do that? There is nothing brave about leaders declaring that they are HIV negative. Some people were killed for declaring that they are HIV positive.”

Jonathan Berger, a senior researcher at the AIDS Law Project, described Zuma as a “lucky man” to have tested HIV negative after having confirmed that he had sex with a woman infected with the virus. “We don’t know if he would have declared his status if the results were positive,” he said.

Recently, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi urged those in leadership positions to take the lead by testing to ascertain their HIV status.

By Luphert Chilwa – Business Day

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