According to a Human Sciences Research Council survey released
on Thursday, no fewer than 11 South African teachers died of HIV and AIDS
complications every day last year. Of those who died of AIDS, 80 percent
were younger than 45 and 33,6 percent between 25 and 34.
The survey was conducted at the request of the Education Labour
Relations Council. Head of research Dr Olive Shisana said the study was
conducted at 1 700 schools across the country over a period of 18 months.
The study found KwaZulu-Natal had the highest prevalence of HIV-positive
teachers (21,8 percent), followed by Mpumalanga (19,1 percent) and the
Eastern Cape (13,8 percent). Gauteng was third from the bottom, with a
6,4 percent prevalence rate. Shisana said 10 000 of the 45 000
HIV-positive teachers needed anti-retroviral treatment. The study found
that HIV-related illnesses led to higher absenteeism and low morale
among teachers. There are 356 700 teachers in 26 700 schools
countrywide, and of the 1 700 we visited, 83 percent of teachers agreed
to provide specimens for HIV testing. We also asked about their sexual
behaviour and HIV/AIDS-related issues.
The number of HIV-positive teachers was higher in the 25-34 age group,
and 24 percent of those infected were women in the 30-34 age group.
About 19 percent were men in the same age bracket. National Professional
Teachers Organization of SA president Dave Balt said the fact that so
many teachers had taken part in the research convinced him that the
findings were accurate. It is much higher than we expected, and
this needs to be changed. We can't afford to lose so many teachers. We
need to embark on programmes of advocacy and training sessions on HIV/AIDS
for teachers. We also need to give moral support to teachers
who are HIV-positive and provide them with medical assistance. SA
Democratic Teachers Union spokesperson John Lewis said the department of
health must start to mobilize its resources to provide anti-retrovirals.
Department of education acting director-general Duncan Hindle said
although the fact that so many teachers had died was alarming, the rates
seemed lower than among the rest of the population. We also note
that the surveyors came at those figures by sometimes making assumptions
on the causes of death - like teachers who died of diseases such as
(Source: IOL, April 1, 2005)