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24 July 2012

Nearly 1 million adults tested for HIV each month following strong political leadership and powerful media campaigns in South Africa

Results from the 3rd South African National HIV Communication Survey (NCS) released today at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., show substantial increases in behaviours that reduce the risk of HIV: condom use, HIV counselling and testing, and voluntary medical male circumcision. The data also confirms that exposure to HIV communication programmes has a direct impact on people practicing these behaviours.

The 3rd NCS was conducted jointly by Johns Hopkins Health and Education in South Africa (JHHESA), loveLife and Soul City with data analysis by Health and Development Africa (HDA) – part of the Mott MacDonald Group – and Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health with funding from the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through US Agency for International Development (USAID).

From 1992 to 2012 condom use at first sex increased from 18% to 66%. This change was created by both communication programmes that promoted condoms and the increased availability of condoms. People who report using condoms at first sex were less likely to say they are HIV positive (3.5% for males; 6.2% for females) compared to those that did not use a condom at first sex (13.6% for men and 18.5% for females).

The survey shows 17.4 million or 64.3% of South Africans have ever tested for HIV, of which 10.6 million tested in the past 12 months as part of the HIV counselling and testing campaign, led by President Jacob Zuma, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

Survey respondents who knew that President Zuma had tested for HIV, as part of the “I AM RESPONSIBLE” campaign, were far more likely to discuss HIV testing with their sex partners (52%) than those who were not aware that the President had tested (39%). People who talked about testing with their sex partners, in turn, were more likely to test for HIV (63%) than those who did not talk about testing with their partners (33%).

Stigma for HIV has substantially declined, as the survey reveals that there is greater openness in HIV testing and disclosure. Among sexually active South Africans, 48% say that they have talked to their sex partner about HIV testing and getting tested and 32% said that they had an HIV test with their partner. Among those tested who know their results, 86% were willing to disclose their HIV status during the interview. Among those who reported their HIV status, 88% reported being negative and 12% were positive.

Over 50% of South African men are now circumcised and 90% of these are full circumcisions, which mean they receive the HIV prevention benefits. There has been a sharp increase in the percentage of men who have been medically circumcised from 33% in 2009 to 48% in 2012. Over 350,000 circumcisions have taken place in the past year and just under 1 million men definitely intend to get circumcised in the next 12 months.

The NCS found that 82.5% of the population, or 23 out of 28 million South Africans aged 16–55 years could correctly recall the content of one or more of the 19 creative communication programmes being implemented in the country. The cumulative effect of these 19 communications programmes increased the practice and maintenance of these behaviours. People who were exposed to more HIV communication programmes were more likely to use condoms at first sexual encounter, get tested for HIV and are more likely intending to get circumcised in the next 12 months.

According to Lusanda Mahlasela, one of the researchers: “Strong and visible political leadership from the President, the Deputy President and the Health Minister, as part of the bold and innovative communication campaigns have brought about positive changes in condom use, HIV testing, male circumcision, and public attitudes towards the disease, can only make prevention and treatment much easier over the next five years.”

Ends


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