SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Surgeon General Lieutenant General Aubrey Sedibe’s conviction that HIV/Aids can be beaten in the ranks of the country’s military has received another push in the right direction.
For the second time in 13 years the United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) has come to the fore with funds earmarked for upgrading of SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) facilities dealing with HIV/Aids treatment and care.
A memorandum of understanding confirming the involvement of President Barack Obama’s dedicated HIV/Aids initiative was signed in Thaba Tshwane earlier this month. It follows a bilateral agreement entered into in 2001 through the American Office of Defence Co-operation (ODC). That saw funding for renovating military health facilities used for HIV/aids counselling and testing, training and treatment in all nine provinces. The upgrades were completed four years ago, the Department of Public Works (DPW) said in a statement.
No indication was given of how many facilities will benefit from the new MoU, or how much funding has been made available.
Citing an SAMHS clinic record study, Sedibe earlier this month said the incidence of HIV/Aids among South African soldiers was 8.5%. The study included regular force and military skills development members of the SANDF.
“This compares favourably with the national prevalence rate of around 19% and is in stark contrast to speculation by some academics that the HIV and Aids infection rate among soldiers may be as high as 28%. The new SAMHS data indicates a major reduction,” he said.
SAMHS spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Louis Kirstein said the PEPFAR funding will be used to upgrade existing facilities used for rolling-out anti-retroviral drugs and medication for SANDF members and their families in Free State, Gauteng, Limpopo and North West.