One-fifth of SA’s military infected with HIV virus, so HIV positive people are no longer accepted into their ranks


Lekota Mosiua

Tuesday, 7 October 2003

It was announced that at least one-fifth of South Africa's military was infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS. Therefore on 7 October 2003 the Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota stated that 'the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is no longer accepting HIV positive people into their ranks'.

Below, an extract from article 'HIV/AIDS: Policies and programmes for blue helmets' by Roxanne Bazergan

Back in 1999 the SANDF reportedly stopped donating blood because of the pandemic, and following an internal health review in July 1999, declared HIV/AIDS to be one of its most important strategic issues...

...The higher prevalence rates make HIV/AIDS an immediate and acute issue for the armed forces. The loss of personnel compromises combat readiness, particularly an army's ability to deploy at short notice, and upsets the continuity of command and the efficacy of detachments. Training new recruits also absorbs already scarce resources. According to Lindy Heinecken, Deputy Director of the Centre for Military Studies at the South African Military Academy, the SANDF's concern was largely sparked by the high HIV rates found in soldiers between the age of 23 and 29, as officers and non-commissioned officers in this age group normally fulfil critical skilled, operational and supervisory roles...

... In 2004 the SANDF allegedly had problems composing an initial detachment of 93 soldiers for the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The SANDF first tested a group of 400 potential peacekeepers. But 90% were found to be HIV-positive. A second group of 400 produced slightly better results when tested - only 87% were positive...

• South African history online,'South  General SA history timeline 2000s',From:South African history online, [online], available at:,[Accessed: 02 October 2013]
• Bazergan, R (2004), HIV/AIDS: Policies and programmes for blue helmets;[online], available at:,[accessed October 2009]

Last updated : 30-Sep-2016

This article was produced for South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011