Resource Logo
South African Press Association

Aids cuts swathe through SA's forgotten province


EAST LONDON - Almost half the patients tested recently for HIV/Aids at Frere Hospital in East London and 35% of patients in the tuberculosis ward at Umtata General hospital were shown to be HIV-positive.

These figures were released by the Eastern Cape department of health on Tuesday.

Department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said 323 people were tested for HIV in May at Frere Hospital.

"Out of this number, 123 tested positive. In June, 287 were tested -- 140 tested positive."

Kupelo said patients in most provincial hospitals were reluctant to be tested and even testing pregnant women at the Cecilia Makiwane and Frere hospitals was difficult.

Most patients refused to undergo tests to determine whether unborn babies were in danger of being infected with the virus.

Statistics from other hospitals in the province could not be obtained.

In a bid to bring the situation under control, the health ministry has identified several hospitals where special wards would be opened to treat chronic diseases including HIV/Aids.

Aids activist Trudy Thomas challenged the government to provide anti-retrovirals "as soon as possible" as HIV/Aids was becoming a serious problem throughout the Eastern Cape.

She also advised government to improve the services provided to rape survivors.

Hospitals were not coping with the size of the pandemic, Thomas said.

"Most hospitals cannot respond to the high demand for anti-retrovirals. And counselling of patients is unsatisfactory -- nurses and other service providers are still not properly trained."

About half of all paediatric deaths in the province were Aids-related, she said.

SA Coalition Against HIV/Aids co-ordinator in the former Transkei, Khaya Mhlaba, said people's reluctance to undergo tests resulted in many dying of Aids-related illnesses without knowing their HIV status.

He blamed nurses for discriminating against HIV-positive people and challenged the government to give nurses proper training.

Responding to last week's announcement regarding anti-retroviral provision, Mhlaba said he had no confidence in the Health Department.

Cabinet announced it has asked the department to prepare a plan for the provision of Aids drugs by next month.

"The Eastern Cape is always the last to benefit from government services," he said.


South African Press Association (Johannesburg) provides news to news organizations around the world. 

Information in this article was accurate in August 13, 2003. 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.