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City records nearly 50 000 assisted HIV self-tests in 18 months

This year’s theme for World AIDS Day is ‘Let communities lead’. It is fitting, considering the gains made in the past two years, with the introduction of HIV self-testing, Pre- and Post Exposure Prophylaxis. On 1 December the City’s Health Department will once again shine the spotlight on prevention and awareness.

City Health has been on the forefront of implementing new HIV and TB policies and guidelines rolled out by the National Department of Health. 

 The City HIV programme has expanded to include prevention strategies like Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).

 The programme is also using new strategies to find untested people through HIV self-screening (HIV SS) and Index Case Testing (ICT).

 The overall goal is to improve HIV testing among persons who under-test such as men, adolescent girls and young women.

 It seeks to improve couple testing among pregnant women and lactating mothers and provides an option for regular repeat HIV testing in high risk populations.

 Between April 2022 and October 2023, 47 773 clients have had assisted HIV SS at City facilities, of which 825 tests were positive.

 The City will be rolling out secondary distribution of HIV SS test kits in 2024.

 ‘These programmes are important in reducing stigma and discrimination. They are also critical in the expansion of access to treatments, gives people at risk choices and encouraging them to check their HIV status, while helping those who are negative continue with prevention,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, Councillor Patricia van der Ross.

 Since implementing PrEP at City Health facilities two years ago, more than 12 000 people have started treatment at the 67 facilities offering this service.

 As PrEP is not a life-long treatment, clients can safely discontinue PrEP when their HIV risk is no longer high, or if it is their preference.

 Post Exposure Prophylaxis is also available at City facilities, to any clients who attend within 72 hours of potential HIV exposure.

 WORLD AIDS DAY COMMEMORATIVE EVENTS

 In keeping with the theme for the year, the City is collaborating with various stakeholders in hosting events with communities.

 The main event will be hosted in Area North, where facility staff will be engaging with residents of the Covid informal settlement in Bloekombos on 1 December from 08:00.

 ‘The City will not just continue its efforts of working closely with various stakeholders to address the biomedical and behavioural determinants of people infected and affected by HIV, but efforts are under way of how we can address the social determinants of health which play such an important role in starting and treating clients.

 ‘We cannot simply treat our way out of these pandemics. We need to address the social determinants of HIV and TB by adopting an all-inclusive approach. We must continue to address the issue of stigma and discrimination of persons living with and affected by HIV and TB,’ said Councillor Van der Ross.

 HIV/AIDS awareness will take place at clinics across the city.

 HIV self-screening tests will be offered as well as information on PEP and PreP.

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