Media Brief - Launch of the South African National HIV Survey (SABSSM V) 2016/2017

21 February 2017
Human Sciences Research Council
DATE: 21 February 2017

Press statement

For immediate release

Sixty thousand participants will take part in the fifth National HIV and Health Study

The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) will visit 60 000 South Africans to request their participation in the country’s fifth HIV and Health study. Professor Leickness Simbayi, Deputy CEO for Research at the HSRC and overall Principal Investigator of the study, says field workers will be visiting selected households across South Africa.

“The HSRC has put together 72 teams of trained field workers, dressed in HSRC bibs and carrying HSRC-issued identification cards, who will be interviewing a total of 60 000 individuals of all ages  from randomly pre-selected households in towns, cities and villages across the entire country. Participation in the survey is voluntary and it is important for as many people who are approached to take part in order for the results to be representative of the whole country” he says.

Early assessments indicate that the survey which commenced in two of the provinces in December 2016 and last month is going well and support from the public is gaining momentum.

"A month into the study, more than 1 000 households have agreed to participate, which is very encouraging," says Simbayi. "However, these are early days; by the end of the study an estimated 22 000 households are expected to have taken part in the study. Field-workers have noted challenges on gaining access to some households in certain neighbourhoods particularly the suburban areas.

“To truly inform our health policies and make decisions that will benefit our entire country, the survey must include a scientifically selected sample that is representative of the whole country, rich or poor and of all educational levels.”

The 2017 HIV and Health Study is the fifth wave of a series of cross-sectional surveys undertaken by the HSRC every few years. Previous studies were done in 2002, 2005, 2008 and 2012.

“This year, field workers are using electronic data collection devices to enable more efficient collection,” says Professor Simbayi. “In addition to 40 000 participants in the nationally-representative sample for determining national statistics, we have expanded the survey sample by 20 000 more participants in order to further improve the accuracy of the study in some selected districts and we are also providing HIV counselling and testing services. We are partnering with both local and PEPFAR-funded non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to provide this service across the country.”

The survey aims to determine the HIV status of participants, estimate the number of individuals who were recently affected (if applicable), determine if the participant is taking antiretroviral medicine (where applicable) and assessing the level of resistance to ARVs by those already on the treatment programme. The study will also identify the prevalence of behavioural and social factors that put South Africans at risk of contracting the virus. These include alcohol and substance abuse, circumcision status and high-risk sexual behaviour.  One of the objectives of the survey is also to track access to different types of HIV and health education and/or communication interventions and to evaluate several national HIV communication programmes.

“With another seven months to go in the study, I would like to appeal to all the pre-selected  households to offer their full co-operation to our field workers, ensuring that they respond honestly on their health behaviours to inform the study findings. The results will have significant implications for the country’s future health policy and in determining the appropriate response mechanisms to address our current health challenges.”
Respondents are asked to answer a questionnaire and provide a small blood sample through a finger prick and heel prick for infants. All information and results are kept confidential.  

The following people are able to confirm the legitimacy of the HSRC field workers:

Mr Sean Jooste: 021 422 3344 
Mr Shandir Ramlagan: 012 302 2635
Dr Sizulu Moyo: 021 422 3344 
Ms Alicia North: 021 422 3344 
Ms Neo Mohlabane 012 302 2609

For media enquiries, call Tshililo Manenzhe on 011 888 8786 (landline) or 078 355 9054 (cell), or email

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