Practise safe sex to stop new infections
Introduced in April 2004, South Africa’s antiretroviral (ARV) treatment programme today treats more than 3.4 million people. That figure is the largest in the world for similar programmes.
South Africa is doing well when it comes to providing HIV treatment to those who are infected with the virus and those who need treatment to prevent infection.
In its 12th year, the availability of ARVs has had a positive impact on the life expectancy of South Africans and it has drastically reduced Aids-related deaths to about half compared with a decade ago.
The country’s life expectancy has increased to 63 years in 2013 – a staggering increase of 8.5 years since 2005. Aids mortality has also decreased by more than 40% during the same period.
These are all great achievements, but they should not lead us to a state of complacency. The number of newly infected people remains very high, which – if not contained – will undermine the strides made in the past few years.
Last year, 380 000 new infections were recorded, bringing the number of HIV-infected people in the country to 7 million. Of those, 180 000 have died of Aids-related illness.
We should continuously use HIV-prevention methods that are freely available – these are abstinence, condoms or pre-exposure prophylaxis. Let us use them because the HIV endemic will not end unless new HIV infections are stopped and those infected are put on treatment.
This week, a vaccine trial that aims to test the safety, tolerability and effectiveness of an HIV vaccine was launched.
It will take four years before the trial results are released.
Until then, let us prevent and stop new HIV infections by practising safe sex.