The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
surveyed a nationally representative sample of 17,088 teachers at 1,700
schools and found that most of the affected teachers were aged between
25 and 44. The director of the new 'Prevention, Care and Treatment
Access' (PCTA) programme, Khanyisile Mdziniso-Zwane, told Plusnews that
stigma was one of the factors contributing to the high prevalence and
death rates recorded by HSRC, as it prevented teachers from gaining
access to HIV testing, antiretrovirals (ARVs) and regular monitoring
available through their medical aid schemes. "It takes great
courage to follow through on a decision to get tested for HIV, and could
prove especially burdensome for teachers, who are usually viewed as not
only educators of children, but role models too," Mdziniso-Zwane
US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), has pledged US
3.8 million over two years to PCTA, with which the initiative hopes to
alleviate the effects of the pandemic on South Africa's education
sector. It was estimated that close to 13 percent of educators are
living with the HI virus, while 4,000 had died of AIDS-related illnesses
last year. PCTA targets are specific and include the prevention of
70,000 new HIV infections, with direct provision of ARVs to at least
1,000 infected teachers and their family members. The programme will be
implemented in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga provinces,
which are identified in the study as having the highest sero-prevelances.
"Teachers and family members who test HIV-positive need only
display the required CD4 (immune cell count) to qualify for immediate
ARV treatment through the PCTA programme," said Mdziniso-Zwane.
Although set to run for two years, there are prospects of additional
funding to extend the programme to five years if the initial targets are
achieved. Some 1.9 million of the PEPFAR pledge has already been
allocated to the first year of PCTA activities.
"The relevant parties will be able to access the programme benefits
as soon as a memo of agreement - reviewing the roles of participating organizations
- has been finalized," Mdziniso-Zwane confirmed.
(Source: PlusNews, April 7, 2005)