Teach­ers bat­tle as HIV runs riot

CityPress - - News - ZINHLE MAPUMULO zinhle.mapumulo@city­press.co.za

South Africa’s pub­lic school teach­ers are strug­gling to re­main HIV neg­a­tive.

Based on data from Ed­u­ca­tion Man­age­ment In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem, at least 58 000 of the 389 044 full­time and part-time teach­ers were liv­ing with the virus in 2015, and 2 900 oth­ers were newly in­fected in the same year. These shock­ing sta­tis­tics are con­tained in a new re­port that was re­leased by the Hu­man Sci­ences Re­search Coun­cil (HSRC) this week.

Pro­fes­sor Khange­lani Zuma, head of bio­statis­tics at the HSRC, said: “These are ed­u­cated peo­ple who have a bet­ter so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus and are sup­posed to be im­part­ing knowl­edge to pupils about HIV ... [yet] eight teach­ers got in­fected every day in 2015. “This could be at­trib­uted to the high part­ner turnover, as teach­ers who were not mar­ried were two times more likely to have two or more part­ners, com­pared with those who were mar­ried,” he said. The depart­ment of ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion com­mis­sioned the study to as­sess the health and well­be­ing of pub­lic school teach­ers. It was aimed at in­ves­ti­gat­ing the HIV bur­den among teach­ers and the ef­fect of HIV preven­tion, care and treat­ment pro­grammes.

The study was con­ducted in all the coun­try’s prov­inces, where 21 495 pro­fes­sion­als from 1 380 pub­lic schools par­tic­i­pated. About two-thirds of the teach­ers who par­tic­i­pated pro­vided dried blood spots that were tested for HIV.

Zuma said the study noted that HIV preva­lence among male teach­ers de­creased from 12.35% in 2004 to 5.2% in 2015 in the 25 to 29 age group. Also, HIV preva­lence in male teach­ers be­tween the ages of 18 and 24 de­creased from 6.6% in 2004 to 2.5% in 2015.

“This shows that HIV preven­tion pro­grammes are hav­ing an ef­fect on male teach­ers who are younger than 35,” Zuma said.

Un­for­tu­nately, HIV preva­lence in those who are older than 35 in­creased, partly due to the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of HIV treat­ment, which meant that older male teach­ers were liv­ing longer.

Re­searchers also found a high HIV preva­lence among fe­male teach­ers.

Preva­lence among fe­male teach­ers in the 18 to 24 age group par­tic­u­lary worry Zuma. He said this meant that “preven­tion mes­sages were not get­ting through to this group of young women”.

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