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25 January 2023

HSRC announces the final opportunity for all South Africans to participate in the sixth national HIV and health study – SABSSM VI

Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)
Press Release

Pretoria, Tuesday, 24 January 2023 With merely three months left to complete the sixth South African HIV Prevalence, Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey (SABSSM VI), the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) is calling on all South Africans, including those in the suburban areas, to embrace the last chance to participate in the study.

The study, which was first commissioned by former President Nelson Mandela in 2001, is a population-based, cross-sectional survey of randomly selected households throughout South Africa. The survey is conducted to better understand the factors driving the HIV epidemic, and to inform public health policies and programmes.

Over 70 percent of the study has already been completed since the launch of the current survey in February 2022. Over 60 000 people from over 23 000 households have already participated in the study.

Prof Khangelani Zuma, the divisional executive of the HSRC’s Human and Social Capabilities research division and overall principal investigator of this study, has expressed his appreciation for those who have already participated.

“This is the final chance for all South Africans to stand up and be counted in this effort to understand critical issues that are driving HIV in our country. Therefore, we are calling on all South Africans, especially those in the suburban areas, to open their doors for us to allow our researchers to collect information to help improve South Africa’s healthcare system,” he added.

Areas to be visited in the next three months include:

Gauteng: Erasmuskloof, Rietvlei, Elarduspark, Brooklyn, Arathorn Estate, Lynnwood Manor, Glen Lauriston, The Reeds Ext 6,19,20, Boadwalk, Edenvale SP, Witkoppie Ridge, Geduld Springs, Noycedale Nigel, Bedford Park Germiston, Chancliff AH Krugersdorp, Welverdiend SP.   Western Cape: Kenever Durbanville, Silverhurst Cape Town, Gardens Cape Town, Sunningdale Blouberg, Plattekloof 2 Parow,   KwaZulu-Natal: Howick Howick, Howick Howick, Kingston Park, Chase Valley, Scottsville, Veld En Vlei Richards Bay.   Gqaberha: Kini Bay, Beverley  Grove, Linton Grange, Bluewater Bay, Humewood, Linton Grange.

By conducting surveys and collecting blood samples (from consenting participants) from homes across the country, we can better understand where the country is in the fight against HIV, COVID-19 and other diseases. This is a unique opportunity for South Africans to contribute towards the development of effective HIV prevention and treatment programmes.

The survey is repeated every 3 to 5 years. The year 2022 marked the 20th anniversary of the first round of the survey. One important addition to the current study is that a sub-sample of participants will be randomly selected to test for SARS-Cov-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) antibodies, helping us to better understand the true impact of SARS-Cov-2 in South Africa.

According to Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla, the department is eagerly awaiting the findings of this important survey. “It will assist the department in tracking the progress made in combating the HIV epidemic in South Africa. Therefore, we would like to encourage community members to participate in the survey,” said Dr Phaahla.  

What is the aim of the survey?

The data gathered during the survey will be used to determine the prevalence and incidence of HIV, people’s exposure to antiretroviral treatment, viral load suppression, drug resistance, and risk behaviours in South Africa. This information is critically important in shaping our country’s HIV policy and intervention programmes. In addition, we shall also look at the prevalence of COVID-19 antibodies in people and the various factors that affect it. This will help the country to better understand the dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The HSRC uses cutting-edge technology and a vast network of fieldworkers to engage with people across the country. This is to ensure that the data gathered are accurate and useful in shaping policy and strategy at the highest level.

The study is taking place across all 9 provinces and is targeting a total of 93 000 participants from approximately 25 000 households.

The success of the survey depends on people across the country opening their doors and allowing our field workers into their homes to complete the survey.

What does the survey involve?

Fieldworkers, who will be identifiable by their HSRC-marked bibs and identity cards, will introduce themselves and explain the purpose of the study. Once a participant has consented to participate, our field workers will: 

If a participant consents to being tested for HIV, our HIV testing and counselling (HTS) data collectors will provide pre- and post-test counselling according to the South African National HTS guidelines. If a person tests HIV-positive, the HTS counsellor will link them to HIV treatment with their consent.  

Our fieldworkers only need one hour to complete the survey. Participants’ safety is our number one priority, so all our field teams follow strict COVID-19 protocols, precautions, and measures at all times. In addition, all information gathered is stored securely and in line with the Protection of Personal Information Act.

The survey is funded by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) through the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is conducted by the HSRC in partnership with the CDC, the South African Medical Research Council, the University of Cape Town, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, and PEPFAR South Africa.


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Notes to the Editor

About the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC)

The HSRC was established in 1968 as South Africa’s statutory research agency and has grown to become the largest dedicated research institute in the social sciences and humanities on the African continent, performing cutting-edge public research in areas that are crucial to development.

Our mandate is to inform the effective formulation and monitoring of government policy; to evaluate policy implementation; to stimulate public debate through the effective dissemination of research-based data and fact-based research results; to foster research collaboration; and to help build research capacity and infrastructure for the human sciences.

The Council conducts large-scale, policy-relevant, social-scientific research for public sector users, non-governmental organisations and international development agencies. Research activities and structures are closely aligned with South Africa’s national development priorities.

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