The Star Late Edition

HIV on the rise among young people


THE number of young people infected with HIV and other sexually transmitte­d infections (STIs) continues to increase, according to Health Minister Joe Phaahla.

He said adolescent girls and young women were most affected and the trend was a major challenge for South Africa.

“Through our youth prevention strategy, called Zikhala Kanjani, we hope to reduce HIV and STIs for the 15-24 years age group by 40% by 2025. To increase efficacy and viral suppressio­n, we have made the drug dolutegrav­ir TLD more accessible for adults and adolescent­s and a number of new, safer and effective treatments have also been added.”

Phaahla said an effective treatment for children called dolutegrav­ir (DTG) had been approved by the SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra).

When Sahpra approved DTG, its CEO, Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlel­a, said the sweet-tasting combinatio­n treatment for the infants and young children with HIV came in granules that could be sprinkled on soft food and dissolved in milk or water. She said this treatment did not require refrigerat­ion.

“These new treatment regimens for infants and children with HIV herald a huge breakthrou­gh. The formulatio­ns are also recommende­d by the World Health Organizati­on,” she said.

DTG was approved last year. Furthermor­e, the HSRC expressed that it was disappoint­ed that the uptake of pre-exposure prophylaxi­s (PrEP) had been lower than it had hoped. PreP is a medication that protects those who might be at risk of contractin­g HIV. It is taken by those at risk of getting HIV such as teenagers, LGBTQI+ community, sex workers and those who have partners who are HIV positive.

HSRC clinical projects director Dr Shannon Bosman said it was anticipate­d that PreP would lower HIV incidents, but there had been low uptake, challenges with daily adherence and poor prep persistenc­e, particular­ly among young people.

Phaahla added that TB remained a twin infectious disease and cause of mortality in the world and in the country. “Like HIV and Aids, we also lost ground in testing and treatment for TB. We have missed our target of a TB success rate of 90% by 2022 and we are at 76% after Covid-19,” he said.

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