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“Better off knowing” campaign aims to mobilise communities to test for HIV


This month, leading public health NGO Health Systems Trust (HST) launches its “Better off knowing” campaign, motivating South Africans from all walks of life to get tested for HIV so that they know their status, receive treatment and live longer.

The high-profile campaign forms part of South Africa’s response 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 HIV status, that 90% of people diagnosed with HIV receive antiretroviral treatment (ART), and that 90% of people on treatment achieve viral suppressionand live lon​ger. 

Using bold and striking mass media and face-to-face messages that address target audiences, the campaign aims to stimulate frank ‒ but often difficult ‒ reflection, discussion and debate about lifestyle behaviours that increase their risk of HIV infection, and so encourage South Africans to embark on the first courageous step to test for HIV.

In the technological and digital era that has enabled limitless access to information, the campaign focuses on the fact that although people have a wealth of knowledge on all types of topics, the single most important question that they should ask themselves is whether they know their HIV status.

Through daring messaging in language familiar to young girls and boys, men and women, the campaign also addresses high-risk groups such as sex workers, men who have sex with men, drug users, and so-called ‘blessers’ and ‘blessees’. 

Judith Annakie-Eriksen, Communications Manager for HST, says: “South Africa has made major strides in reducing the number of new HIV infections and broadening access to ARVs, but there is much still to be done to bring infection rates to zero. Everyone agrees that knowing your HIV status is an important first step in getting treatment with the ultimate aim of controlling your viral load.”


The campaign builds on South Africa’s hugely successful ARV programme, the largest ARV roll-out in the world.

“In South Africa there are many different people at risk of HIV so we have tried to create messages that speak to them all. The campaign targets a broad range of people from all walks of life, including key populations, in a way that will catch their attention and help them to see the benefits of getting tested,” says Annakie-Eriksen.



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Judith Annakie-Eriksen

Telephone: 031 266 9090




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.