7.7m people: SA is losing HIV battle
7.7M PEOPLE: COUNTRY’S RATE OF INFECTION STILL HIGHEST IN WORLD
Deputy president to address meeting of the SA National Aids Council tomorrow.
With the SA National Aids Council (Sanac) meeting in Mpumalanga tomorrow set to take stock of strides made in stamping out the scourge of HIV/ Aids, tuberculosis (TB) and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), the council yesterday conceded the country continued to record the highest and most high-profile HIV epidemic in the world.
According to Sanac spokesperson Coceka Nogoduka, last year the country had an estimated 7.7 million people living with HIV. There were 240 000 new infections and 71 000 had died from Aids-related illnesses.
Accounting for a third of all new HIV infections in southern Africa, SA had a higher incidence rate among women aged 15 to 24.
The number of new infections in women was three times higher than their male counterparts and HIV prevalence remained high at 20.4% in the general population – although statistics varied markedly among provinces.
“HIV prevalence is almost 12.2% in KwaZulu-Natal, compared with 6.8% and 5.6% in Northern Cape and Western Cape, respectively,” said Nogoduka.
The Mpumalanga meeting of Sanac’s highest decision-making body, comprising government, civil society and business will be addressed by Deputy President David Mabuza in his capacity as chair. Strategies, programmes and the disease prevalence will be discussed.
The meeting will be taking place ahead of the release on World Aids Day of Mabuza’s national strategic plan for HIV, TB and STDs on December 1.
Despite the country having the largest antiretroviral treatment programme in the world, serving an estimated 4.4 million people, Nogoduka said it was “concerning to find very little behaviour change seem to have occurred”.
“It has been found that consistent condom use is low and there is an increase of early sexual debut, before the age of 15 years, especially among males, compared to 2012.
“It has also been established that over a third of young women had sexual relationships with older men, despite programmes and interventions implemented.
“South Africa has made some progress...” she said.
“In terms of the Unaids [joint United Nations programme on HIV/Aids] 90-90-90 targets, 85% of people living with Aids aged 15 to 64 years, have tested for HIV and know their positive status.
“Seventy-one percent of this sub-group are on antiretrovirals and 86% are virally suppressed.
“This shows that the country has made significant progress towards reaching the 90-90-90 targets.”
In an effort to address the disease impact, the country has launched initiatives which include the Cheka Impilo campaign, aimed to accelerating screening and testing for HIV, TB and STDs and also including non-communicable diseases like hypertension and diabetes.
“This campaign is implemented alongside the social behaviour change drive that seeks to address specific behaviours among the different population groups.
“It aims to empower adolescent girls and young women.
“The other initiative is the Takuwani Riime [let us stand up together, in Tshivenda], which seeks to engage men’s action and responses to adverse social conditions and for them to take accountability for their contribution in resolving social challenges affecting their communities,” she said.
Consistent condom use is low