Independent Online (01.29.11) - Thursday, February 03, 2011
If everything goes as planned, South Africa could roll out a
voluntary HIV counseling and testing (HCT) campaign in schools
The health and education departments are working in
consultation on campaign logistics and "special measures" to
guarantee the confidentiality and support of the children.
Implementation of the program will not be rushed at the
expense of the students' benefit, said Fidel Hadebe, a
Department of Health spokesperson.
"The needs of learners for child-specific support and follow-
up requires the HCT campaign to adopt extra preparatory
measures to ensure the best interests of the children
involved," said Hadebe.
To avoid disrupting school instruction, the Western Cape
Education Department will provide testing only on weekends and
school holidays. Faiza Steyn, a spokesperson for the
provincial health department, said the campaign would be
carried out in the province as part of a wellness day
targeting high schools. All testing, which requires parental
consent, will be done in private spaces at the schools. The
participation of parents, teachers, and others will be
encouraged to minimize any teasing of participants.
According to Hadebe, in addition to encouraging young people
to know their HIV status, HCT would also bring services to
students who spend most of their time in classes, and have
less time to go to clinics to be tested.
"The message we are trying to bring across to learners," said
Hadebe, "is, if you are negative please stay negative. But, to
those that might test positive, we are saying that we will
give them the necessary support in terms of counseling and