News24, 10 November 2002, Aids-focused doctors trained

Ermelo - The government has moved to address the shortage of doctors specifically trained to provide care for people with HIV/Aids, Deputy President Jacob Zuma said on Sunday.

Addressing the National Health Providers' Prayer Day celebration gathering in Ermelo, Zuma said the government had realised there was a need for training. Currently only 2000 of the country's 27 000 registered medical practitioners have been trained to provide care to HIV/Aids sufferers.

"For this reason the department of health is running a series of training programmes in collaboration with academic institutions and other role players.

"The government is also working towards establishing public sector centres of excellence for HIV/Aids care in all nine provinces," he said.

The main objective of the centres, he said, would be to ensure development of curricula on HIV/Aids and tuberculosis care, to ensure the dissemination of guidelines, and to ensure health care workers were adequately skilled in providing care and support to those who needed it.

"We are also intensifying efforts to assist families affected by the HIV/Aids epidemic. The departments of health, social development and education are working together on this.

"The assistance includes foster-care grants, assistance to child-headed households and food parcels."

Health care system

While the health care system was dealing with all kinds of illnesses and wellness programmes, everyone was aware that a key challenge of the moment was the HIV/Aids pandemic, Zuma said.

He said the pandemic was taking its toll not only on the population but also on health care providers who had to face the ill and dying everyday, while providing counselling, care and support to them and their families.

"It is both physically and emotionally draining and we truly acknowledge the role of our health workers in this regard."

Calling on everyone to work together in fighting the disease, Zuma said "negative attitudes" could only result in people being denied the treatment, care and support they need, while also discouraging people from being tested.

Campaign against discrimination

"Government is therefore intensifying its campaign against discrimination.

"Steps towards fighting discrimination include the drafting of a plan for national education on legal and human rights of people living with HIV/Aids."

This plan would aim to raise awareness about the rights of those living with HIV/Aids, both among people who were fearful about being tested for the it and among those who discriminated against HIV/Aids sufferers.

The fight against the stigma and the support for health providers and caregivers should be everyone's mission.

"What we need to bear in mind is that there is no longer a distinction between those living with HIV/Aids and those who are not.

"We are all living with HIV/Aids as we are all affected in some way, even if we are not infected by the virus," Zuma said.