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Shocking AIDS figures in SANDF


iClinic - April 3, 2000

Sixty to Seventy percent of SA National Defence Force (SANDF) members are HIV positive, according to statement from the New National Party (NNP) Defence Spokesperson, Hennie Smit at the weekend.

"Highest level decisions will have to be made on whether we can expose our troops to any more high-risk zones during deployment elsewhere in Africa," says Smit.

The NNP says troops should not be further exposed and decisions will have to be made on the treatment of those already infected with the virus. "The SANDF faces the dilemma that the United Nations demands that only HIV-free soldiers be deployed elsewhere, while SA does not have sufficient measures for compulsory testing of SANDF staff," says Smit.

Democratic Party (DP) Deputy Spokesperson on Defence, Andries Botha also shared his party's concern with revelations that between 60% and 90% of the members of some units of the SANDF are HIV positive.

"I will be speaking to the head of the joint standing committee on defence, JN Mashimbye, to ask him to convene a meeting of the committee at which the SANDF is required to put before parliament a strategic management plan to deal with the situation," says Botha.

The incidence of HIV/AIDS in the military gives rise to a host of problems.

"Given that the primary role of the SANDF in future is foreseen to be peace-keeping in foreign countries and given that the terms of the UN regulations bar soldiers who are HIV positive from participating in such missions, how does the SANDF plan to use HIV positive soldiers?" asks Botha.

He also questions what will the impact be on the role of the South African Medical Health Service, and whether it is prepared to deal with a massive medical crisis.

"Given that soldiers receive free medical treatment, does the SANDF have enough capacity in military hospitals to deal with this situation? How does the SANDF plan to manage the very necessary down-sizing of the force in light of the incidence of AIDS? "What programmes does the SANDF have in place to make soldiers aware of the risks and consequences of AIDS and if such programmes exist, what is being done to improve their effectiveness?" These are some of the questions the DP feels the SANDF needs to answer as a matter of urgency if SA is to avoid chaos in the future management of the force.

"I intend to make full use of parliament's oversight role to ensure that this tragedy is dealt with properly," says Botha.

The SANDF was not available for comment at the time of writing.


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Information in this article was accurate in April 3, 2000. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.