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11 Million South Africans tested for HIV, We Salute You

More than 10-million South Africans responded to the government's HIV counselling and testing (HCT) campaign - and Brothers for Life congratulates every single one.

Brothers for Life is a national men's campaign that aims to create a movement of men that will ignite and spread throughout South Africa, to promote healthier and more responsible lifestyles. The campaign draws upon the spirit of Brotherhood that exists among South African men and encourages men to positively influence each other as men, partners, and parents and as leaders.

"When President Jacob Zuma announced the HCT campaign in April 2010, the target was to get 15-million South Africans to test by June 2011 - making it one of the most ambitious initiatives of its kind ever undertaken," says Brothers for Life project manager Mandla Ndlovu.

"Many questioned what the point was of the campaign - but it was clear: by obtaining the first comprehensive snapshot of HIV prevalence in South Africa, instead of relying on the testing of pregnant women and extrapolating those results, government and civil society will be able to focus their responses to the epidemic for maximum effect."

And while government's testing target was not met, the end result was close.

"No fewer than 12-million South Africans were counselled to take an HIV test, and 85% of them - 10.2-million in total - went ahead and were tested. This, in itself, is an incredible achievement, and has given us important and valuable information for the fight against this disease," says Ndlovu.

For example, government expected around 11% of the people tested to be HIV-positive - but the results have shown that between 17-18% of South Africans are living with the disease. Additionally, Mpumalanga has been shown to have the highest HIV prevalence at 24%, as opposed to KwaZulu Natal with 22%, the province previously believed to carry the highest per-capita HIV burden.

Apart from gleaning the information needed for South Africa to address HIV and AIDS, the HCT campaign has also empowered individuals.

"The first step for each one of us to play a role in winning the struggle against HIV and AIDS, is to know our own HIV status. Through the HCT campaign, 10.2-million more of us are now equipped with this critical information.

"To all those South Africans who took the opportunity to find out their HIV status, Brothers for Life would like to congratulate you. Our slogan is 'yenza kahle' - do the right thing - and that is exactly what you have done," says Ndlovu.

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