articles from 2008

tannie evita marks her hiv testing debut aboard the tutu tester

Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, 6 September 2008

Ms. Evita Bezuidenhout, the famous centerpiece of this past weekend’s Voorkamerfest in Darling, proudly stepped aboard the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation’s TUTU TESTER on Saturday 6 September to publicly support HIV testing.

Tannie Evita gets tested aboard the Tutu Tester

Darling — Stopping between the theatre festival's unforgettable performances, Evita received her very first HIV test in Piazza DolcEvita. Elegantly emerging from the mobile vehicle she announced, "I'm pregnant!"

Evita's altar-ego, political satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys, has toured schools in South Africa and theatres around the world to encourage an open dialogue of truth, compassion, and awareness regarding the HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa. A member of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation's board of directors, Pieter-Dirk Uys continues to use humour as his most effective tool in breaking down stigma, increasing education, and encouraging testing.

"I never thought I would ever allow myself to be tested. But my grandchildren said: 'Gogo, lead by example!' So here I am! I invited the President to join me but he's not in South Africa at the moment. Jacob Zuma was in the shower. So I will represent those who seem to also be scared. The Tutu Tester can only make one less fearful."

The TUTU TESTER, a mobile HIV testing clinic, was launched by The Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation (DTHF) in May 2008. This innovative program combines HIV testing with screening for other common chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension. The concept represents the DTHF's vision that HIV should become viewed as a chronic treatable condition rather than one attached to stigma, discrimination and shame.

Since the programme's inception in May more than 1800 individuals have tested on the TUTU TESTER. More than half of the individuals were male and approximately 40 percent of testees have never had a HIV test before. Through combined efforts with the non-governmental organisation, Men at the Side of the road, another 630 men have been tested in the past 2 months.

Implementation of the Tutu Tester was designed on the basis that knowledge of one's status is key in prevention strategies and the entry point to all HIV care. Its highly mobile, flexible, accessible, and efficient care facilitates regular testing and caters to under-serviced areas in the Western Cape.

By offering HIV testing that is within reach of more South Africans and works outside of the traditional clinical setting, the TUTU TESTER sets out to promote disease prevention as a self-initiated activity. The DTHF's primary aim is to test this model and see whether it can be recommended for wider replication in similar communities.