President Jacob Zuma of South Africa has said that confirmed HIV positive South Africans that volunteer to be marked near their genital area with a tatoo depicting their status, will in addition to free counselling and medication, be paid 50,000 Rands (N840, 000) each.
Zuma who is reported to have volunteered to be the first South African citizen to get his HIV status tatted near his genitals, however announced that only the first 10 million people (who already tested positive) to volunteer to have their HIV statuses tatted on their genitals would be given the money in form of a funeral expense voucher.
After signing the bill which is widely regarded as one of the greatest steps in the history of combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country, Zuma was quoted as saying: “The mark is to protect those who can’t say no to sex. I mean if you can’t read between the lines you should read between the legs because that’s where the status would be tatted.
“The choice to be HIV positive is now in your hands or your genitals for that matter…. We also encourage those who had been living with the virus to go to the nearest public hospitals to get their status tatted in,” he noted.
South Africa has the world’s highest HIV caseload and premature deaths of 300,000 people. The government is distributing life-prolonging anti-retroviral drugs to people infected with the virus.
Particularly, HIV-positive infants and children under one year obtain free ARVs, while pregnant women and patients with tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS with CD4 cell counts below 350 are treated free.
In 2006, Zuma faced charges of raping an HIV-positive family friend, and was ridiculed for testifying that he took a shower after sex to lower the risk of infection with HIV. His determination to help millions South Africans infected with HIV and around 60,000 babies born HIV infected each year.
“Let there be no more shame, no more blame, no more discrimination and no more stigm. Let the politicisation and endless debates about HIV and AIDS stop,” Zuma noted.
Many factors contribute to the wide spread of HIV in the country. These include: poverty; inequality and social instability; high levels of sexually transmitted infections; the low status of women; sexual violence; high mobility (particularly migrant labour); limited and uneven access to quality medical care; and a history of poor leadership in the response to the epidemic.