Independant On-line, No Aids crisis in SANDF, says Lekota, 3 August 2004

Graeme Hosken

There is no crisis within the South African National Defence Force when it comes to HIV/Aids.

That was the response of Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota to a Sunday newspaper report that the defence force's biggest enemy was the pandemic itself.

The article came from reports made public during a five-day conference held in Richards Bay.

The conference, a collaboration between South Africa and the United States, was held to assess the rate of infection and the effects of anti-retroviral treatment on South Africa's military forces.

'Just like the rest of South Africa, the defence force has members who are infected with the virus'
At the conference it was revealed that out of 1 089 soldiers tested for HIV/Aids, 947 were HIV-positive.

It is believed that, of the force's 70 000 members, more than 25 percent, or 17 500, are infected with the virus.

Only soldiers who give their permission may be tested for HIV/Aids, unless they are about to embark on a United Nations mission, which requires compulsory testing.

Speaking about the article, Lekota said there was no crisis.

"Nothing that we do not already know has been learnt from this workshop," he said.

"Just like the rest of South Africa, the defence force has members who are infected with the virus. This does not mean that we are experiencing major problems or facing a disaster.

"We have several plans of action in place to combat the epidemic."

The defence force is running "Project Phidisa" at six military installations.

The project ensures that those who test positive for the virus are treated and provided with medical care.

Project Phidisa is also used to research the effectiveness and effects of anti-retroviral drugs.








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