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In the corridor, a staff kitchen or under a tree.

These are the places Gauteng HIV counsellors claim they frequently have to see patients – and without privacy or a quiet space. As SA gears up to present its HIV/Aids campaign successes to the International Aids Conference next week, community health workers and HIV counsellors say they have been on strike for months because they are unrecognised and sidelined by the system.

“When you talk about HIV you talk about something that is very important,” said counsellor Lucky Mokone. “When you talk outside you (are) unintentionally disclosing their (patients’) statuses … It’s unfair.”

Mokone said he has been a counsellor for more than 10 years and the source of many of their problems is their status as volunteer workers. They receive a stipend of R1 500 a month, but claim that as early as 2004 the province promised to accommodate them into the official system.

Chairwoman of the Counsellors of Gauteng task team Balise Mahlangu said they worked long hours and could see between 20 and 30 patients in a day. “Their (government) only interest is stats, we are pushed so hard … and when we burn out no one cares,” she said.

“The most depressing thing is that we are the staff of the Department of Health but they take us to non-accredited organisations for training,” she said.

“We don’t even get a certificate, (but) we deserve proper training as we deal with very serious issues.”

The Department of Health did not respond to questions at the time of going to press.

see pages 14, 18 & 19