More of us have HIV, but far fewer are dy­ing

Battle stats

CityPress - - Voices & Careers - ZINHLE MAPUMULO voices@city­press.co.za

South Africa has made strides in the fight against HIV and Aids in the past decade. Ten years ago, 1 000 peo­ple were per­ish­ing from Aids-re­lated deaths daily. Slightly more than 100 000 of the in­fected mil­lions were ac­cess­ing life-sav­ing an­tiretro­vi­ral drugs, while about 30% to 40% of ba­bies were born HIV pos­i­tive in 2002.

To­day, the pic­ture has changed dramatically. Life ex­pectancy has risen by up to 10 years, Aids-re­lated mor­tal­ity has dropped sig­nif­i­cantly, fewer moth­ers in­fect their ba­bies in preg­nancy or at birth and more than 3 mil­lion peo­ple are on an­tiretro­vi­ral treat­ment.

While all this is good news, it does not mean South Africa has won the war against the dis­ease. HIV and Aids con­tinue to rav­age the na­tion with 6.4 mil­lion peo­ple es­ti­mated to be in­fected with the virus and 400 000 new in­fec­tions recorded ev­ery year.

As world-ac­claimed epi­demi­ol­o­gist Pro­fes­sor Quar­raisha Ab­dool Karim noted at the sev­enth SA Aids con­fer­ence in Dur­ban this past week, to end the HIV epi­demic “we need a vac­cine and a cure”. The re­al­ity of find­ing a cure or vac­cine in the next few years is slim, con­sid­er­ing that HIV evolves con­stantly and sci­en­tists are find­ing it dif­fi­cult to pin down the na­ture of the virus.

But it is not all doom and gloom. Huge in­ter­ven­tions in the past decade are yield­ing pos­i­tive re­sults. The Aids epi­demic stats be­tween 2005 and 2015 tell the story. Life ex­pectancy at birth now stands at 62, hav­ing in­creased from 52 in 2005. Med­i­cal ex­perts be­lieve this will peak at about 70 in the next decade. The rise is at­trib­uted to the num­ber of Aids-re­lated deaths de­creas­ing and an

in­crease in the num­ber of peo­ple on life-sav­ing an­tiretro­vi­ral (ARV) treat­ment

2 363 In 2005, half of all deaths (363 910) were at­trib­uted to Aids. Last year, the fig­ure de­creased to about 150 000. This is en­tirely due to the

mas­sive roll-out of ARVs

in public health­care, not fewer peo­ple con­tract­ing or living with the dis­ease New in­fec­tions are bad news, how­ever. Es­ti­mates show more than

new in­fec­tions oc­cur ev­ery year. Sadly,

of those are

among young women be­tween 15 and 24 ev­ery week

Be­cause ARVs in­crease life ex­pectancy, the num­ber of in­fected peo­ple also in­creases. To some, the in­crease of HIV preva­lence, the to­tal num­ber of peo­ple in­fected with HIV, may seem bad. But to ex­perts, it’s a good sign be­cause it means peo­ple are tak­ing treat­ment and living longer

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