IN a groundbreaking awareness campaign, Port Elizabeth's private and public renal units will offer free testing for kidney disease at Greenacres Shopping Centre today.
The initiative will start at 9am in front of Shoprite.
The screening was planned to coincide with International Kidney Day on March 14, highlighting the importance of kidneys to a healthy life and how to care for these vitally important organs.
The city's transplant coordinator, Sally Brooks, said they planned to do the screenings and inform members of the public about kidney disease, test for blood pressure and if needed do a creatinine test to ascertain kidney function.
Livingstone Hospital's kidney unit head Dr Rob Freeke said he could not overemphasise the importance of testing blood pressure and blood sugar.
"The message for this year's International Kidney Day is: kidneys are amazing. We cannot emphasise enough how important it is to look after your kidneys."
The abuse of certain drugs, trauma, infection, recurrent kidney stones and bladder infections also put the kidneys at risk.
The kidneys act as filters for toxins, maintaining the body's balance of vital salts like sodium, potassium, calcium and phosphates.
Robert Souter, the chief executive of National Renal Care (NRC), said kidney disease remained a major killer in South Africa, but despite this the majority of people remained ignorant of its seriousness.
"This is a tragedy because there is much that can be done to prevent and effectively treat kidney disease if it is detected early," he said.
Kidney disease cannot be cured but if it is detected early the progression of the disease can be slowed considerably.
NRC national Healthy Start manager Karlien van Jaarsveld, said they ran the programme to provide support to patients with early stage kidney disease and to support and assist them in understanding their condition.