SANAC #Covered24_7 Campaign
PPeople infected or living with HIV and TB are encouraged to get and
stay on treatment during lockdown…and beyond
PRETORIA, 28 April 2020. Since the COVID-19 crisis began, there has been an influx of information and misinformation regarding those who may or may not be more vulnerable to contracting the virus than others. In particular, confusion about whether people living or infected with HIV and those infected with TB are more vulnerable to the virus than the rest of the population has abounded. While there is no indication that those two groups of people are more vulnerable, it is still fundamentally wise for them to get and remain on treatment, as well as be vigilant about their health.
Dr. Sandile Buthelezi, CEO of SANAC, says, “It’s vital that people are given accurate information so that they can manage their health and wellness effectively.”
South Africa has an incredibly high rate of HIV and TB infections and this is something that existed before COVID-19 and will continue after the current global health crisis has ended.
One of the ways to combat the high rate of HIV and TB infection is to effect behavioral change in people as well as to encourage them to get tested and be initiated on treatment as soon as possible. The more people on treatment, the fewer new infections the country will see.
Being on treatment for both HIV and TB helps to strengthen the immune system, which will enable those infected to better withstand a potential COVID-19 infection. To ensure people are given every opportunity to get tested for HIV and TB, SANAC has lobbied for the integration of HIV and TB testing into the COVID-19 testing drive that is underway in communities across the nation.
On Tuesday 28th April, SANAC will begin a digital campaign, urging people to get tested for HIV so they can begin treatment immediately should they be infected. The campaign also highlights the importance of those infected with TB to complete their treatment as well as to be extra vigilant about their health.
“We encourage everyone to know their HIV status – if you are infected with HIV, you can begin treatment immediately; there is no waiting period. The sooner you are on treatment, the sooner you can take control of your life again. During lockdown, people on treatment for HIV or TB still have access to their medications at clinics nationally,” says Dr Buthelezi.
In line with their vision to have a South Africa free from the burden of HIV, TB and STIs, the digital campaign also talks to the importance of safer sex practices, as well as the rights of vulnerable people and key population to testing, treatment and care.
“We are speaking to all South Africans – HIV and TB don’t discriminate and can affect anyone. Every single person has the right to access testing, treatment and care – no matter who they are, where they live or what they do. Our hope is to get the message out there loud and clear – you matter and we care,” adds Dr. Buthelezi.