SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Surgeon General Lieutenant General Veejay Ramlakan has come out with guns blazing against those who maintain the military is riddled by HIV and Aids.
A study undertaken by his arm of service, the SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) , into the prevalence of HIV and Aids among soldiers, shows statistics gathered by ISN Security Watch and others to be far off the mark.
The Swiss-based network providing open access information services for international relations and security professionals said HIV/Aids prevalence in the SANDF was a major issue.
“Although exact figures are not available, it is safe to assume HIV rates are higher than the current 17% national average for the ages 15 to 49, based not only on the demographics of the SANDF, but also the nature of military work which makes it ‘a vulnerable organisation’,” ISN said.
Not so, according to an exhaustive study using clinical records undertaken by SAMHS.
“The study included Regular Force and Military Skills Development members. It showed an HIV prevalence rate of 8,5% compared to the national prevalence rate of around 19%,” Ramlakan said.
The figure comes from the SANDF September 2011 health status report and was reconfirmed in an HIV prevalence study done last August.
“This is in stark contrast to claims by some academics over the last few years that the HIV and AIDS infection rate among soldiers is as high as 28%. The SANDF has always objected to mere translation of available national statistics obtained from antenatal clinics as these are scientifically unfounded. This practice was also questioned by independent researchers,” he said.
Another Cross Sectional Cohort Study is planned for this year to continue monitoring of HIV and AIDS management in the SANDF.
“The data collected during both the health status report and the HIV prevalence study shows conclusively that the SANDF programme on the management of HIV and AIDS is working and bearing fruit and is validation of the successes of the Masimbambisane awareness campaign and the Phidisa research project.”
Ramlakan maintains the study has justified the stance of the SANDF and is adamant SAMHS will continue the fight against HIV and AIDS to ensure a HIV and AIDS free generation.