Why AIDS has hit SA so hard

Why AIDS has hit SA so hardThere are five key reasons why the HIV/AIDS epidemic is so rampant in South Africa, according to co-convenor of the 13th World AIDS Conference, Jerry Coovadia.

There are five key reasons why the HIV/AIDS epidemic is so rampant in South Africa, according to co-convenor of the 13th World AIDS Conference, Jerry Coovadia.

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There are five key reasons why the HIV/AIDS epidemic is so rampant in South Africa, according to co-convenor of the 13th World AIDS Conference, Jerry Coovadia.

Coovadia, who is also head of paediatrics at the University of Natal, said firstly, that unlike other countries, the AIDS epidemic in South Africa did not start at one point and then spread. Rather, there were multiple points of entry and the virus was introduced in a number of centres simultaneously.

“It is not new for us to be hit by epidemics,” said Coovadia, “but generally they come in one wave, hit us and then disappear. However, HIV/AIDS came in through our ports, our airways and our roads. We are an industrialised country compared to other African countries and we have very busy, porous borders.”

Secondly, the socio-economic conditions in South Africa which include the hostel system and migrant labour created optimum conditions for the virus to spread.

“We shouldn’€™t underestimate the impact the breakdown of family life has had on our society,” said Coovadia. He said at the level of social capital, South Africa was extremely poor and the society had been torn apart by the “tremendous violence” that had prevailed for so long.

The prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) also affected the impact of AIDS in South Africa. These differed from country to country and in South Africa were rife and made people more vulnerable to contracting the HI virus.

Similarly genetic make-up played a role in how susceptible different people were to the virus. “Genetics play a small role, but it does play some role,” said Coovadia.

The final two factors that Coovadia listed were behaviour ‘€“ practices such as circumcision and how it was executed, as well as sexual behaviour ‘€“ and the circumstances in which South Africa found itself.

“We are a society in transition. There are all sorts of demands on us, but the response from our government, from the community and from the corporate sector has not been as vigorous as it could have been,” he said. ‘€“ Health-e News Service.