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Whites, Indians urged to participate in HIV survey
Mabutho Ngcobo
June 4, 2008
The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) has urged whites and Indians to take part in the third South African National HIV, Behavior and Health Survey, which is now underway. This follows past observations that the two racial groups do not want to participate in HIV surveys.

"We have some problems because some of the Indians do not want to participate, for religious reasons. And the whites also do not want to participate. So, we are requesting them to take part in this survey," said Dr Olive Shisana, HSRC Chief Executive Officer.

Dr Shisana says she is worried about the attitude towards HIV by some whites in the previous HIV surveys.

"They would say 'we are not at risk of acquiring HIV. So, it's not necessary for us to participate'. And I think it is wrong because HIV might spread to this group without it being noticed. Because it has not been measured," she said.

The current HIV survey, which kicked off last week, is meant to reach 28 000 people in 15 000 randomly selected households across the country in the next five months.

Participation is voluntary and all participants will remain completely anonymous. Those below the age of 18 years will need their parents' consent before taking part in the survey.

"We want every South African who is approached to participate in the survey, so that we can be able to get reliable statistics that can be able to help our government to plan interventions," Shisana added.

Hlubi Mboya, who plays HIV-positive Nandipha in the SABC soapie, Isidingo, is one of the local celebrities who took part in the survey.

"It was a fantastic moment in my life because I am really kick-starting a very important initiative... which is basically trying to find out the prevalence of HIV and AIDS in South Africa, so that policy makers can make plans of... how to deal with it," she said, adding that she "wants to see an AIDS free South Africa".

The results of the survey are expected to be released later this year. There are 4.8 million people who are living with HIV in South Africa according to the last households survey done by the HSRC in 2005. The survey further found that among those living with the virus, half of them were not aware of their HIV status and also did not regard themselves at risk of HIV infection.