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Too little being done to prevent HIV – SANAC

Written by Kerry Cullinan

More people are getting infected with HIV every year than passing matric, and the SA National AIDS Council (SANAC) says progress to reduce new infections is “disappointingly slow”.

350 000 grade 4 girls 9 years and older received the first injection of this two-dose vaccine in March and April this year

350 000 grade 4 girls 9 years and older received the first injection of this two-dose vaccine in March and April this year

About 469 000 people were infected with HIV in 2012, and although government has committed itself to halving this figure by 2016, we are way off target.

HIV is increasing particularly in young women aged 15 to 24, who account for a quarter of all new infections.

In addition, “risky sexual behaviour is increasing”, says SANAC, which yesterday released its first ever report on progress made on the National Strategic Plan on HIV, STIs and TB 2012-2016.

Fewer people are using condoms, more people have multiple sexual partners and there has been an increase in “age-disparate” relationships – or “sugar daddies”.

“For adults older than 25 years of age, HIV prevalence has increased signifi­cantly from 15.5 percent in 2002 to 19.9 percent in 2012,” according to SANAC, but this is also because people with HIV are on treatment and living longer.

“Much more needs to be done to prevent new HIV infections,” says SANAC.

Goal two of the NSP is to give antiretroviral (ARVs) medicine to 80 percent of those who need it. Although South Africa has the biggest ARV programme in the world – around 2,5 million people – slightly more than one-third (36%) of those with CD4 counts of under 350 are on treatment.

To meet this target, the country will need to enroll half a million people a year on its ARV programme.

Goal Three is to halve tuberculosis (TB) infections and deaths by 2016 – and again we are falling flat. Over a period of three years, new TB cases have risen by 40 000 (to 530 000 in 2012). Around 8,4 percent of TB patients die of the disease, which is the country’s biggest killer.

Not enough has been done to address the social factors that drive HIV, including poverty, gender-based violence, and poor education levels, says SANAC.

But there are glimmers of hope. The country is on track to reduce HIV transmission from mothers to their newborns to a mere 2 percent by 2016.

In addition, our life expectancy has jumped from 53 in 2006 to 61 by 2012. – Health-e News.

An edited version of this story first appeared in the 28 November edition of the Cape Argus newspaper

About the author

Kerry Cullinan

Kerry Cullinan is the Managing Editor at Health-e News Service. Follow her on Twitter @kerrycullinan11