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.