Recalled HIV test kits disrupt Aids war
Doctors and activists have called on South Africans to "continue voluntary testing and counselling for HIV" in the face of a recall of half a million HIV testing kits.
They were speaking at a press conference in Johannesburg yesterday where Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi assured South Africans that the recalled SD Bioline kits had not caused any false positive or negative HIV results.
Motsoaledi recalled the kits "to err on the side of caution". He assured the public it was safe to test for HIV.
The saga started after the Health Department and the Treasury ordered 4.5million SD Bioline kits in March in a R22.5-million tender. This was after the World Health Organisation "delisted the company from its approved list" in November.
The organisation's Dr Kees de Joncheere said its testing found batches of the kits used in Kenya produced invalid results in which "no test result could be read".
Motsoaledi said he had not been aware the kits had been ordered and blamed junior officials for the blunder.
He refused to respond to questions about whether money spent on the testing kits would be reclaimed, saying an investigation was taking place into why the tender was awarded.
Deputy chairman of the South African National Aids Council Mark Heywood was concerned that confusion over testing kits would be used as an excuse for people to avoid testing for HIV.
"An HIV test is difficult to do at all times for people, so we don't want questions over the efficacy of the HIV tests to stop people from testing."
The HIV Clinicians' Society's Professor Francois Venter said: "For the first time in 20 years, South Africa's life expectancy has risen and it is a direct result of the antiretroviral treatment programme, the largest in the world.
"People need to be tested and get on treatment if they need it," said Venter.