President Zuma breaks Aids taboo

President Jacob Zuma revealed his HIV status on Sunday as he launched a scaled-up counselling and testing campaign.

“After careful consideration, I have decided to share my test results with South Africans,” said Zuma, who said he had tested negative recently.

“The purpose is to promote openness and to eradicate the silence and stigma that accompanies this epidemic,” he said.

“My April results, like the three previous ones, registered a negative outcome for the HI virus,” Zuma told thousands of people who attended the event at Natalspruit hospital near Johannesburg.

However, Zuma said that by disclosing his status his aim was not to put pressure on any citizen to do the same.

“Anyone’s HIV status is private and confidential. Disclosure is an individual decision. We must respect the decisions of those who choose to keep their status confidential, whether positive or negative,” Zuma said.

The campaign, which hopes to test 15 million people by the end of June 2011, is aimed at providing anti-Aids drugs to 80% of South Africans in need of treatment.

The UN estimates 5.7 million people in South Africa, out of a population of 48 million, are HIV- positive.

Zuma said the health department’s 4 300 clinics and hospitals were ready to provide HIV counselling and testing services to all.

And he said the country would need to tap retired health workers to staff the campaign.


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