South African National Defense Force Puts Best Foot Forward in War on AIDS Pandemic
August 12, 2005
Since 2003, when Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota revealed that at least 23 percent of South African National Defense Force personnel were HIV-positive, the Military Health Service (MHS) has made sure all infected SANDF staff have antiretroviral drugs access. Many SANDF members are at risk -- young, sexually active, away from home, pressured by peers, and feel invincible -- and their deployment abroad in peacekeeping missions on the African continent makes them an important target group for HIV prevention and treatment.
MHS launched Project Phidisa (Heal) in 2003, in collaboration with the US departments of Defense and Health and Human Services and senior military officers from other African nations. Soldiers are not required to take HIV tests, but those who volunteer for testing, and their partners, receive support at the state's expense. Nonetheless, only 2,000 SANDF members have participated.
Three Phidisa clinics operate in the country and one more will open Aug. 15. They will serve as bases for medical and public health research, with SANDF using the clinics to address "other health issues of critical importance for military force preparedness and that can be of wider relevance to the South African health services," said Deputy Defense Minister Mluleki George, addressing the third annual Phidisa conference in Cape Town last week.
Business Day (South Africa)
08.10.2005; Hopewell Radebe
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.