In June, leading public health NGO Health Systems Trust (HST) launched its ‘Better Off Knowing’ campaign, motivating South Africans from all walks of life to get tested for HIV so that they know their status‒ and if HIV-positive, receive treatment and live longer.
The high-profile campaign forms part of South Africa’s contribution to the ambitiousUNAIDS ‘Fast-Track’ 90-90-90global targetsfor combatting HIV in communities and achieving an AIDS-free generation by 2030. Launched in 2014, the strategy aims to ensure that 90% of people living with HIV know their status, 90% of people diagnosed with HIV receive antiretroviral treatment (ART), and 90% of people on treatment achieve viral suppressionand live longer.
Using bold and striking messages to bring attention to the increased risk of contracting HIV through lifestyle behaviours, the first phase of the campaign rallied people to know their status by taking an HIV test.
The Better Off Knowing campaign is now addressing the next stage of action: motivating people diagnosed with HIV to get onto ART as soon as possible. The campaign’s ‘get treated’ messages provide essential information on the stages of HIV, ARV treatment protocols, preventing mother-to-child transmission, and useful medication adherence tips.
The campaign will also help to popularise the South African government’s new ‘universal test and treat’ policy which commences on 1 September 2016. Previously, people who tested HIV-positive could only be initiated on treatment when their CD4 count fell below 500; the new policy stipulates that everyone who tests positive can commence treatment immediately, regardless of their CD4 count. This is a major milestone in the country’s response to HIV and AIDS, and ensuring that the estimated six million people living with HIV in South Africa access treatment.
Judith Annakie-Eriksen, Communications Manager for HST, says: “Although we’ve made considerable progress in reducing the number of new HIV infections in South Africa, there is still much work to be done. Our contribution to this global effort seeks to get South Africans to think deeply and to speak openly and respectfully about HIV. Continuous education about knowing your status and how to access treatment are key drivers in combatting HIV.
Better Off Knowing is an integrated campaign which utilises a variety of channels and platforms to promote dialogue and encourage action to get tested, get treated, and live longer, in line with the UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets. Instrumental in this open discussion has been the power of the campaign’s social media presence, which is building a growing following, particularly among the younger age groups.”
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NOTES FOR EDITORS
About Health Systems Trust
Health Systems Trust (HST) is an innovative non-profit organisation working to strengthen ongoing development of comprehensive health systems in southern Africa. Using a primary health care approach, we specialise in conducting health research, providing technical support, and information dissemination. Our strategies are designed to promote equity and efficiency in health and healthcare delivery.
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