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Sunday Times-South Africa
Middle class urged to join in HIV survey
Katharine Child
February 24, 2012
Sunday Times (Johannesburg) - February 24, 2012

Whites, Indians and affluent blacks say they are "too busy" to participate in the fourth Human Sciences Research Council HIV survey.

The six-month South African National HIV, Behaviour and Health Survey is conducted every three years.

The government uses the data to develop five-year strategic plans to fight HIV/Aids.

In the past month, researchers have visited 1000 households (about 3500 people).

The HSRC hopes to reach 46000 people.

Dr Olive Shisana, CEO of the council, said yesterday another 14000 households should be surveyed but middle-class people were reluctant to be interviewed.

"They say, 'I'm too busy' or they think HIV is a problem only of poor people, but it's not the case," she said.

The survey measures HIV prevalence, the number of new cases, understanding of HIV/Aids, sexual behaviour and the use of antiretrovirals.

Shisana implored whites, Indians and affluent blacks to take part in the survey so the country would have sufficient data to fight the epidemic.

"We are one people in one country and have a responsibility to participate as a group so that we can have a better health status as a country. We can't have no data for particular groups of people." Households are told in advance, through flyers, of the survey. Ward councillors, police and armed response companies are alerted.

Blood samples are taken from respondents but these are bar-coded and kept anonymous. Respondents are not told their HIV status but are referred to a clinic for testing if they want to know their status.

Professor Leickness Simbayi, of the HSRC, said the blood samples were used to determine the progress of the virus in attacking the body. The data helped the HSRC mathematically model the number of infections each year.

It was expected that HIV prevalence would increase as more people took antiretrovirals and lived longer, he said.

But it was hoped the rate of infection would decrease.

www.aegis.org