July 31, 2012
More South Africans are taking HIV tests, using condoms, and getting medical male circumcision to prevent HIV, according to new research. People are taking measures to reduce their behavioral risks as a result of information gleaned from public prevention campaigns in South Africa, according to the third National HIV Communication Survey, which was released during the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington.
President Jacob Zuma's decision to get tested for HIV in public drove many others to test, said Health Minister Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi. Based on the survey, an estimated 63 percent of South Africans have gotten tested, including 10.2 million in the past year as part of the government's testing campaign.
"We need to step up communication [on HIV], and not just through the media," Motsoaledi said. From district councilors to provincial leaders, all officials have a role to play, he said.
"The other significant finding that makes me excited is medical male circumcision," said Motsoaledi. Over half of South African men are circumcised, and almost 1 million are considering getting circumcised in the next year. "Eighty-five percent of men who are circumcised know they must use condoms, which shows that fear was misplaced," he said of concerns that circumcised men might stop practicing safe sex.
Campaign exposure was associated with adapting or maintaining risk-reduction behaviors. However, fewer people in the past three years reported campaign exposure -- a worrisome finding, said Saul Johnson, M.D., of Health and Development Africa, which managed the survey. Johns Hopkins Health and Education South Africa, loveLife, and Soul City conducted the survey, which was funded by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief; 10,034 South Africans responded to the survey.