The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Surgeon General, the man with overall responsibility for the good health of the country’s armed forces, is optimistic an Aids-free generation of soldiers is attainable in the near future.
SA Military Health Services (SAMHS) Chief, Lieutenant General Aubrey Sedibe, said confirmation of the decreasing level and incidence of HIV/Aids in military ranks has been confirmed by a clinical records study.
The study, which included regular force and military skills development members, found an 8.5% prevalence rate of HIV in the SANDF.
“This compares favourably with the national prevalence rate of around 19%. The data was obtained from the SANDF health status report of September 2011 and re-confirmed by a subsequent HIV prevalence study.
“This is in stark contrast to speculation by some academics over the last few years that the HIV and Aids infection rate among soldiers may be as high as 28%.
“The new SAMHS data indicates a major reduction,” Sedibe said.
He attributed this to the comprehensive health approach SAMHS follows in terms of awareness campaigns, lifestyle education and the roll-out of anti-retroviral therapy.
“These are all conducted within the broader framework of the Department of Health’s national strategic plan on HIV, sexually transmitted illnesses and TB, as well as military specific interventions and research.”
Sedibe, while encouraged by the latest available data, said continuous programmes were a necessity if an Aids-free generation was to become a reality.
During his, to date nine month, tenure as the SANDF’s top healthcare professional, Sedibe has also overseen the deployment, for the first time, of a SAMHS medical team including dieticians to assist with humanitarian operations in Mozambique.
The team was part of a combined SANDF flood relief assistance operation after heavy rains struck South Africa’s eastern neighbour.
“The dieticians were on hand to ensure dietary requirements were adhered to in the provision of much-needed food supplies. They concentrated their efforts on the needs of children, pregnant mothers and the elderly,” he said.
Sedibe cites the near completion of refurbishment work at 1 and 3 Military Hospitals, as well as the work in progress on the 2 Military Hospital upgrade as other milestones achieved to date.
“Refurbishment of all three military hospitals is a critical aspect and much has already been done at 1 Military Hospital in Thaba Tshwane and Three Military hospital in Bloemfontein. 2 Military Hospital in Wynberg, Cape Town, is currently undergoing a major facelift and renewal of critical areas.”
The 54-month project is scheduled for completion in 2017 and has been planned so that there will be no interruption to services while construction work is underway.