AIDS

CityPress - - News - ZINHLE MAPUMULO zinhle.mapumulo@city­press.co.za

South Africa can be proud of the progress it has made in treat­ing HIV and re­duc­ing Aids-re­lated deaths, but its con­tin­ued fail­ure to pre­vent new HIV in­fec­tions among young peo­ple is threat­en­ing to re­verse strides achieved in the past few years, warns a re­port by the Joint UN Pro­gramme on HIV and Aids, known as UNAids. It serves as the lead­ing ad­vo­cate for global ac­tion against the epi­demic.

Ex­perts at­tend­ing the eighth SA Aids Con­fer­ence, held in Dur­ban in KwaZulu-Na­tal this week, said South Africa needed more than just treat­ment if it hoped to achieve its goal of hav­ing an HIV-free gen­er­a­tion.

It also needed to sus­tain its com­mit­ment to pre­vent­ing, treat­ing and pos­si­bly cur­ing HIV.

New in­fec­tions were said to be per­sist­ing, de­spite in­creased ef­forts to treat HIV in­fec­tions with the hope of re­duc­ing new ones and, in so do­ing, pre­vent­ing Aids-re­lated deaths.

Last year, a UNAids re­port es­ti­mated that 270 000 South Africans were newly in­fected with HIV last year. Most of those in­fected were young peo­ple – the same gen­er­a­tion that govern­ment was bank­ing on to help it achieve an HIV-free gen­er­a­tion.

Linda-Gail Bekker, a pro­fes­sor of medicine and deputy di­rec­tor of the Des­mond Tutu HIV Cen­tre at the Univer­sity of Cape Town, said South Africans should not be choos­ing be­tween preven­tion and treat­ment be­cause of the mag­ni­tude of the coun­try’s epi­demic.

Cur­rently, 7 mil­lion South Africans are liv­ing with HIV, while slightly more than 900 peo­ple are be­ing in­fected a day. The state pro­vides an­tiretro­vi­ral (ARV) drugs to more than 3.7 mil­lion peo­ple at a cost of R130 a month per per­son.

Linda-Gail Bekker

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