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
"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
"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
"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
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.