"Current figures indicate that approximately 14 million people have been counselled and tested for HIV in the country since the launch of the national HCT campaign in April last year," she says. "GEMS is a firm supporter of this important campaign and encourages public service employees as well as all other South Africans to take back the future by getting tested and knowing their status."
Dyantyi observes that the ultimate purpose of getting tested is that people who are diagnosed as HIV-positive can take the most appropriate action to safeguard their health, and the health of others, as early as possible. Dyantyi points out that living with HIV/AIDS is a very personal issue and empowering yourself does not require you to make your personal challenge a public one. On the contrary, with GEMS your battle against HIV/AIDS can remain as private as you want it to be.
GEMS provides healthcare cover to public service employees and offers a helping hand to HIV-positive members through an HIV/AIDS Disease Management Company, Aid for AIDS (AfA), that provides members with the confidential support they need if they are HIV positive. AfA can also help members who simply need more information about the disease. By turning to AfA for help, members can help themselves by taking control out of the hands of the virus and putting it back into their own.
According to Dyantyi, many GEMS members have found that AfA helps them to keep their health under control. "Positive Living", one of the AfA programme components, shows members how to manage HIV in their daily lives. This includes information about hygiene, nutrition and safeguarding one's immune system from secondary infections.
"The GEMS HIV Disease Management programme run by AfA assists members to empower themselves while the Scheme deals with the technical aspects of HIV management, says Dyantyi. "Treatment is closely and consistently monitored so that optimum results are achieved. The doctors and laboratory staff make sure that each and every patient is on the correct medication so that their lives can continue normally. Each patient receives appropriate counselling, as their emotional and mental wellness is not only important for their own sake but also for that of their loved ones."
"The programme not only offers support on a normal day-to-day basis, but also for those who are going through stressful times," she adds. "For example, a new mother often finds it difficult to adhere to her antiretroviral programme after giving birth and the stress of caring for a newborn can lead to her neglecting her own health. She will need support at this time and Aid for AIDS can assist with this transition."
Joining the programme is easy and can be done in the six simple steps below:
1) Register with Aid for AIDS - it is strictly confidential. Contact them on 0860 100 646, or download the application form here.
2) Fill in your details. Get your doctor to examine you and complete the form.
3) Fax it to the toll-free number 0800 600 773 or post to The Aid for AIDS Programme, PO Box 38597, Howard Place, 7450, South Africa.
4) The Aid for AIDS medical team will review your case and discuss the appropriate treatment with your doctor.
5) Aid for Aids will send both you and your doctor a letter explaining your treatment plan.
6) Treatment can be obtained from your dispensing doctor, pharmacy or through the GEMS designated service provider for chronic medication, Medipost.
"With our ever-growing member base we hope to encourage more individuals to take responsibility for their lives and to know their HIV status. It is only once all South Africans become mobilised and more proactive about HIV/AIDS that we will really be able to address this epidemic," she concludes.