The controversial report by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) stating that 88% of South African police are HIV positive has generated reactions by the public who believe the number given by the corporation is a mere exaggeration.
The SABC had in early February, reported the alleged discovery that a large number of the police are infected with the deadly disease. The board derived its discovery from the speech of the deputy Police Minister Maggie Sotyu made at a seminar hosted by Parliament’s Police Portfolio Committee.
Many who read through the report contacted Africa Check in disbelief. “This number can surely not be right,” tweeted Ricardo Mackenzie, a member of Western Cape provincial parliament, to which the province’s premier Helen Zille replied: “A job for @AfricaCheck.”
This 88% referred to the amount of people enrolled in the police medical scheme’s HIV programme who were receiving anti-retroviral treatment in 2014/15. Going back to Sotyu’s speech:
“We are informed as the Ministry of Police that, 88% of this total number (27246), was enrolled for the Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) for HIV/AIDS in the Financial Year 2014/2015, and the highest affected age group is between 34 and 44 years.”
looking at the last count, the South African Police Service (SAPS) had 193,692 members out of which 150,950 are officials and 42,742 were support staff also known as public service act members. It would then mean that a total number of 170,449 members are carriers of the virus. And according to Timeslive, if true, the HIV rate for this group would be 8 times the national prevalence rate of 11.2%.
The police medical scheme was then contacted by the Africa Check and the Spokesman Marlene Eloff said she couldn’t provide information on the total number of Polmed members or confirm how many were on the HIV programme, saying: “This information is confidential”.
More to this, Times live reported that the deputy minister’s spokesman, Nomsa Hani, sent them the slides on which her speech was based. The slide revealed that 27,246 people, comprising of police officials and their dependents, were enrolled in Polmed’s HIV programme in the 2014/15 financial year and more than two-thirds (18,996) of them were main members of the scheme and therefore presumably police officials.