Zuma: I am HIV-free


President Jacob Zuma has publicly disclosed that he is HIV-negative.

Zuma, whose personal life has been much criticised, surprised the nation yesterday when he revealed the results of his HIV tests.

He did so at the Natalspruit Hospital in Katlehong, east of Johannesburg, at the launch by the department of health of South Africa's biggest HIV testing and counselling campaign so far.

Zuma said: "After careful consideration, I have decided to share my results with all South Africans ... to promote openness. I'm sure South Africans will know I am very open."

Zuma has taken flak for having three wives and two fiancées and for fathering 20 children with several women.

He said: "By disclosing my HIV-negative status, I am not putting any South African under pressure to disclose [their status]. It is my decision; it is my style of leadership."

Zuma said that, after four HIV tests, the most recent on April 8, disclosing his status was a way of showing leadership in a campaign that aims to get 15million people tested by the end of June 2011.

While Zuma did not submit himself for an HIV test in public yesterday, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane and Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi were among those who were tested before the cameras.

The launch of the campaign comes three months after Zuma's state of the nation address during which he announced that his government's aim was to halve the number of HIV infections in the country by 2011.

Zuma said the provision of condoms had been increased from 450million last year to 1.5billion this year.

"Asifuni ukuthi kubekhona abantu abathi aphelile (We don't want anyone saying that they [condoms] are finished."

The campaign, which is being launched in all nine provinces, is aimed at educating and mobilising people to acknowledge their status, and enrolling those in need of treatment for antiretroviral drugs.

Motsoaledi said those who chose to be tested for HIV would also be screened for diabetes, high blood pressure and tuberculosis.

Shortly before Motsoaledi made his speech, Zuma boogied to a new song by kwaito singer Chommee, called I Am Responsible. Motsoaledi and Mokonyane joined him on stage.

Vuyiseka Dubula, an Aids activist and member of the SA African National Aids Council who tested HIV-positive in 2001, said she supported the initiative because her first test had saved her life.