South Africa: Democratic Alliance Concerned About HIV/AIDS Troops
October 1, 2004
A high number of HIV-infected soldiers may be compromising the South African National Defense Force's battle-readiness, Rafeek Shah, defense spokesperson for the Democratic Alliance party, said Wednesday. Shah's statements followed a report by Jane's Defence Weekly that SANDF lacks the operational capacity to carry out its peacekeeping tasks in neighboring countries.
"Previously, we raised the concern that the battle-readiness of the SANDF is severely compromised by the fact that, according to the SANDF itself, around 23 percent of its troops are HIV-positive," Shah said. "This statistic, apart from the human cost it represents, is particularly devastating in the light of the fact that HIV-positive troops are legally precluded from participating in United Nations operations."
Shah added that news of an internal defense probe was further cause for alarm. The investigation is looking into allegations that fraudulent medical certificates had been issued to HIV-positive soldiers. "Evidence from a Chinese hospital in Kindu in the Democratic Republic of Congo reveals that a shocking number of SANDF members have tested positive for HIV," he said. "This reveals the perception that all is not well with testing procedures at the SANDF."
Recently, Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota and Gen. Siphiwe Nyanda, SANDF's chief, briefed Parliament's defense committee on the military's readiness in a meeting that was closed to the public and the press. Committee chairperson Kader Asmal said it was common knowledge that SANDF was "stretched" in some areas, but concerns such as diseases and ailments in the ranks are being addressed.
09.30.04; Wyndham Hartley
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.