AIDS in South Africa
An estimated 5.6 million people were living with HIV and AIDS in South Africa in 2009, more than in any other country. It is believed that in 2009, an estimated 310,000 South Africans died of AIDS. Prevalence is 17.8% among those aged 15-49, with some age groups being particularly affected. Almost one-in-three women aged 25-29, and over a quarter of men aged 30-34, are living with HIV in the country. And, an even more startling statistic, South Africa is only 0.7% of the world population, but are carrying 17% of the global HIV burden.
The impact of the AIDS epidemic is reflected in the dramatic change in South Africa’s mortality rates. The overall number of annual deaths increased sharply from 1997, when 316,559 people died to 2006 when 607,184 people died. This rise is not necessarily due solely to HIV and AIDS but it is young adults, the age group most affected by AIDS, who are particularly shouldering the burden of the increasing mortality rate, and these dates are when the disease has been especially virulent in the country. In 2006, 41% of deaths were attributed to 25-49 year olds, up from 29% in 1997. This is a strong indicator that AIDS is a major, if not the principal, factor in the overall rising number of deaths. This is also the reason that there are so many AIDS orphans in South Africa, because so many parents with young children are dying due to AIDS.
What’s Being Done?
Marking a welcome change from South Africa’s history of HIV the South African Government launched a major HIV counselling and testing campaign (HCT) in 2010. By raising awareness of HIV the campaign aims to reduce the HIV incidence rate by 50% by June 2011. Isn’t amazing what an impact a seemingly simple thing like awareness can have on this disease?
This groundbreaking decision was part of a process to take forward the 2009 World AIDS Day announcements by the South African President and to try to help the country achieve the targets of the National Strategic Plan on HIV, AIDS and Sexual Transmitted Infections (STIs). Some of the key parts of this plan are:
- Information, education and mass mobilization
- Massive, voluntary HIV counseling and testing
- Widespread provision of condoms
- Prevention of mother to child transmission aimed at totally eradicating the prospects of being children born with HIV
- Life skills education
Why Did it Take So Long?
It is almost incredible to think that this HTC campaign is only a recent occurrence in South Africa, when the disease has been particularly brutal since the early 90s. There are several cultural and economic reasons that factor in to this change coming so late in the game. But it seems that the biggest indicator was change was World AIDS Day. It took the world to focus its attention on sub-Saharan Africa before the South African governement understood what was at stake. In 2010, South Africa was hit with the startling news that if the virus continued to spread and take the lives of its citizens, the life expectancy in the country will be 50 in 5 years. Not long thereafter, the government began works on the HTC plan.
AIDS in Africa may seem like a never ending world problem, but if something like basic awareness can reduce the spread by 50% it seems that the country and others in Africa are finally taking charge. But there is still much to be done. One important thing the country needs is to produce a new generation of South Africans that are healthy, provided for and well-educated. Learn more about what The Positive Change Project is doing to help a new generation of South Africans. And it doesn’t take much to help! Can you donate a penny a day? Donate Now.