Initiative encourages South Africans to get to know their HIV status

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HIV clinician, Dr Kairoonisha “Kay” Mahomed, who runs the HIV clinic at the Netcare Garden City Hospital.

Johannesburg HIV clinic offers free testing and pre- and post-test counselling

Wednesday 14October 2020, The private HIV Clinic at Netcare Garden City Hospital in Johannesburg is offering free HIV testing, includingpre-test and post-test counselling to the people of Johannesburgas part of a community outreach programme.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) clinician, Dr Kairoonisha “Kay” Mahomed, who runs the HIV Clinic at the hospital says that she hopes the initiative will encourage all South Africans to become aware of their status in order to take the necessary precautions and not to inadvertently pass the virus onto their sexual partners or new-born babies. Furthermore, once a person is aware of their status, onecan seek treatmentand have their HIV clinically managed so that they can remain healthy.

“People often put off testing because they are worried about the result. However, testing is the only way to know for certain if you have HIV, and knowing your status means you can keep yourself and your sexual partners healthy,” points out Dr Mahomed, who has been treating patients and training doctors and nurses in HIV care for more than a decade.

“Crucially, knowing your status also allows you to take control of your health, and gives youa much improved chance of living a long and healthy life. Those who test negative, on the other hand, can have the peace of mind of knowing their status and take steps to ensure that they don’t contract HIV in future,” she adds.

“It is important to be aware that with the new antiretroviral medications available today,HIV has become a very manageable and treatable chronic condition, so much so that most peoplewith the condition are living as long as those of the HIV-negative population.However, there still remains a lot of fear around the condition and there is often a strong social stigma associated with testing positive. These are some of the reasons why many people continue to avoid getting themselves tested.”

Dr Mahomed says that despite the stigma still attached to HIV, the high regard in which the HIV Clinic at Netcare Garden City Hospital is held attracts not only local but alsointernational patients; a number of people from around the world come to the clinic for the management of their conditions.

She adds that some HIV-positive personswere afraid of seeking medical attentionduring the peak of the COVID-19 pandemicand as a result,suffered complications and developed other HIV-associated conditions such as tuberculosis (TB).

“This underscores the importance of managing the condition properly in association with your doctor. Fortunately, a number of people who had never tested for HIV before did testas they felt that it may be better to know their status and obtain treatment if necessary at this time.”

Dr Mahomed says that while there were initially many concerns that HIV-positive individuals may be more vulnerable to suffering more serious COVID-19 illness, this has not generally been the case.Stable HIV-positive people do not appear to be any more vulnerable than the rest of the population.

As we would like to encourage people to get tested, our HIV Clinic at Netcare Garden City is offering the people of Johannesburg the opportunity for confidential free testing and pre- and post-test counselling. The counselling is a critical part of the testing, as it prepares you for what to expect and provides reassurance and guidance should youtest positive. The clinic is open from 9:00to 14:30 from Monday to Friday and everyone is welcome,” she says.

Dr Mohamed advises those who are sexually active to get into the habit of testing regularly for HIV, even if you use condoms and don’t think you are at risk. She advises testing if you:

  • havehad unprotected sex;
  • haverecently been diagnosed with another sexually transmitted infection (STI);
  • haveshared needles or other injecting equipment with other people; or
  • are concerned about HIV and want to put your mind at ease. 

Dr Mahomed says that highly effective new antiretroviral drugs,which can be taken as a single dose in the morning, andhave virtually no side effectsfor most persons, have been introduced in recent years. These new ARVsare not only easy for people to tolerate, but are highly effective in suppressingviral loads to undetectable levels, which means that their immune systems are kept strong.

“Given this, we recommend that all South Africanswho have never been tested beforeshould seriously consider doing so.Through the free testing and counselling initiative, we are committed to making these more accessible to the people of Johannesburg,” concludes Dr Mahomed.

Ends

To find out more about the services offered through Netcare hospitals and other of the Group’s facilities, please contact Netcare’s customer service centre either by email at customer.service@netcare.co.za or phone 0860 NETCARE (0860 638 2273). Note that the centre operates Mondays to Fridays from 08:00 to 16:00.

Looking for a medical appointment? Netcare appointmed™ will make appointments with specialists practising at Netcare hospitals, GPs and dentists at Medicross medical and dental centres, and specialists at Akeso mental health facilities for YOU. Simply phone Netcare appointmed™ on 0860 555 565, Mondays to Fridays between 08:00 and 17:00, or go online at www.netcare.co.za/Request-a-medical-appointmentto request an appointment.

For more information on this media release, contact MNA at the contact details listed below.

Issued by: MNA on behalf of Netcare Garden City Hospital

Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville and Estene Lotriet-Vorster

Telephone:        (011) 469 3016

Email: connect@mnapr.co.za, martina@mnapr.co.za, graeme@mnapr.co.za, meggan@mnapr.co.za or estene@mnapr.co.za