HIV rate outpacing prevention, says Motlanthe

The rate of new HIV infections continues to outpace prevention efforts, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Thursday.

Replying to questions in the National Council of Provinces, he told members there were now an estimated 5.38-million people with HIV in South Africa.

“This translates into a HIV prevalence of 10.6% for the overall population, and 16.6% for the 15 to 29 year age group,” he said.

Among pregnant women tested, HIV prevalence had gradually levelled off to just below 30%.

“In terms of HIV incidence, which is the rate of new infections, estimates suggest an annual incidence of 2% to 2.4% in the first half of the [past] decade, starting in 2000; and about 1.2% to 1.7% in the second half.

“The rate of new infections continues to outpace our prevention efforts, and thus prevention programmes will be prioritised in the new national strategic plan which is being developed for the term 2012 to 2016.”

Responding to a question on whether South Africa was winning the battle against HIV/Aids, he said a number of programmes had begun to have an impact.

“The programme for prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV has yielded remarkable results.

“Recent health statistics show that transmission rates have declined from 10% to 3.5% over the past three years, with KwaZulu-Natal reporting further improvements down to 2%.”

South Africa had the world’s largest antiretroviral programme, with over 1.3-million people currently receiving treatment.

“An important issue to note is that the number of deaths due to HIV-related causes is beginning to show a decline due to the intensification of antiretroviral treatment.

“Research conducted by the HSRC [Human Sciences Research Council] also shows that young people are engaging in safer sex practices by using condoms, and this has led to a slight decrease in new infections among young people.”

Over the past 15 months, the country had embarked on the world’s largest HIV counselling and testing campaign, which had resulted in more than 14-million people being tested, of which two million people were found to be HIV positive.

“Given the fact that South Africa has a huge challenge and burden of disease due to HIV, the impact of current interventions will bear fruit over a period of time due to the nature of the infection.

“However, it is critical to emphasise that prevention is the key pillar of our response, and all sectors of society must collaborate and unite in efforts to reduce new infections,” Motlanthe said. — Sapa

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