The HIV/Aids epidemic in South Africa has become worse, with the situation most dire in Mpumalanga's Gert Sibande district.
Here, long distance truck drivers,
as well as migrant workers serving the mining, agriculture and forestry
industries are among those blamed for a devastatingly high HIV prevalence rate of 46.1%.
existence of the national N17 and other roads connecting Gert Sibande
district to other districts and provinces, creates an opportunity for
commercial sex work between unemployed women and long distance truck drivers," said TB and HIV expert Dr Eric Khumalo, who has a private practice in Nelspruit.
challenge, coupled with the province's underbudgeting and slow
implementation of the Mpumalanga Provincial Aids Council (MPAC), is
fuelling the high HIV prevalence in that district and the province at
large," he said.
Read: Six million South Africans living with HIV/Aids
An even darker picture
Gert Sibande's figures could be even higher than that. The 46.1%
statistics are three years out of date and relate to the 2011 Antenatal
Sentinel HIV and Syphilis Prevalence Survey.
next survey, which relates to 2013 will be released later this year and
may paint an even darker picture based on another survey released this
The newly released South African
National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour Survey of 2012
indicates that here has been an increase in infections and decrease in
condom use nationally.
The report, by the Human Sciences and Research Council, states that an estimated 6.4 million people had HIV/Aids in 2012.
Unemployed and barely literate
a million people live in the Gert Sibande district, which borders
Gauteng in the west and the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal in the south.
Khumalo said the HIV prevalence rate is exacerbated by the fact that
39% of adults in the region are unemployed and most are barely literate.
Read: SA has highest HIV rate
He said women have little voice in relationship matters, including sexual relations.
also a lack of co-operation from government, the community, civil
society, private and public doctors in the district, he added.
approach needs to be multi-sectoral. Government, the non-profit
organisations, doctors from all sectors and the public needs to get
involved and work together and act against the identified contributing
factors to HIV, not only in Gert Sibande, but the whole country,” he
Budget needs to be increased
much funding has gone towards addressing the crisis in Gert Sibande.
The Gert Sibande district municipality budgeted R1.3 million for HIV
programmes for the 2014/2015 financial year.
provincial government, through the Mpumalanga Provincial Aids Council
(MPAC), has a budget of R4.4 million for the entire province.
MPAC chairman and Premier of Mpumalanga, David Mabuza, admitted that the province needs to increase the council's budget.
Read: HIV increasing steadily
Dedicated programmes required
the province is the second worst-hit after KwaZulu-Natal in terms of
HIV statistics, with Gert Sibande district having the most infections at
46%. The municipality's R1.3 million budget to deal with the disease is
"If you want to fight this
kind of battle, you must arm yourself by having dedicated programmes
that you must carry out. In order for you to achieve on those
programmes, you need reasonable resources to systematically go all out
and attack this scourge,” said Mabuza.
said an increased budget would enable local Aids councils to do their
work properly, including mobilising communities to take responsibility
for HIV and Aids matters.
the basic, like not engaging in unsafe sex, knowing one's status and
supporting those who are infected and affected by the virus.
Image: Truck driver from Shutterstock
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