South Africa Postpones Plans for Making HIV/AIDS a Notifiable DiseaseSouth Africa's plans to make HIV/AIDS a notifiable disease --"standard practice" in developed countries -- have been "put on ice" because the country is "still grappling with the stigma of the scourge" and lacks the necessary infrastructure for implementing the system, the South African Press Association reports. If HIV is made a notifiable disease, health workers would have to notify health authorities, the patient and also his or her immediate family of positive test results. Health Department officials said that there are "still too many gaps" in the notification process and are looking to find ways to address discrimination concerns as well as logistical problems. Human rights and AIDS activists argued against the notifiable disease status, saying that it would "infringe on individuals' rights" because infected people, most notably women and children, still experience discrimination. The Health Department also acknowledged that follow-up facilities, which would be required for patient care, are not yet in place.
Notifiable Status 'Irrelevant'
Doctors at Johannesburg Hospital called notifiable status for HIV "largely irrelevant," saying they "more or less" know the statistics. An estimated 40% of adult patients admitted to the hospital have HIV. "By the time people come to be tested it is usually five or six years down the line from the time they were infected, so from a point of view of controlling the disease, notification is going to make absolutely no difference," Dr. Peter Cooper, head of pediatrics, said. Professor Jeff Wing added, "[U]nless you have a plan to test the whole population every year once a year ... and then isolate them, you are not going to make an impact on disease spread." Hospital Superintendent Warick Sive said that there was "still a lot of hype surrounding the stigma of HIV," but he "did not believe" it was an issue "when it came to the actual treating of patients." Calling the treatment of HIV-positive patients "common," he said that doctors have "gotten over" the stigma (South African Press Association, 1/10).