NEWS & ANALYSIS

SAMA's accusations spurious and ill-informed - Zille

WCape Premier says it's outrageous for association to call for boycott of an HIV testing campaign

SAMA's mischaracterisation of Western Cape Government's campaign based on misunderstanding

The accusation by SAMA that the "Know Your Status and Win"/"Weet en Wen" campaign violates medical ethics is spurious and ill-informed (see here). Thoroughly considered medico-legal advice was taken in designing this campaign to ensure that it complied to standards of medical ethics.

Patient-practitioner confidentiality is guaranteed, participation is entirely voluntary and the form that comprises the draw entry is entirely separate from the health information gathered in the course of counselling and testing. What is completely outrageous and unethical is a call, by the South African Medical Association no less, for people to boycott an HIV testing campaign and effectively saying that they must not get tested!

After all the years of work that has been done in public education and awareness-raising for people to go and get tested, it is nothing short of destructive for an organisation that is meant to be a respected medical authority to issue public statements that go against the message for people to go for HIV testing.

When the national Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi announced the outcomes of the HCT campaign in August, he highlighted that of the 14 million people who got tested in the 15-month period of the campaign, over 60% who got tested were women, with only 30% of the final figure being men. Minister Motsoaledi said that more needs to be done to get men involved in future testing programmes. He said this is: "This is not a battle only for women, men must come on board."

Because persuasion has had limited success, the Western Cape Government is trying the route of using incentives to ensure that all adults regularly test their HIV status. That is why this campaign was launched: to provide an incentive for people to get tested, especially men. Dr Ramathuba and his colleagues at the South African Medical Association are clearly unfamiliar with behavioural economics, for which they can be forgiven as this is an emerging field of knowledge at the cutting edge of social innovation.

The testing sites at which members of the public can enter the draw by undergoing VCT are to be found in all communities throughout the Western Cape so the campaign is not biased for or against the poor. HIV is a serious matter that affects millions of people in this country and the Western Cape Government is determined to be at the forefront of success in providing HIV services, treatment and encouraging behaviour change to achieve a healthier society.

Statement issued by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, November 30 2011

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