Updated 24 June 2013

A million new HIV infections

There are now one million new HIV infections in South Africa, and yet people continue to have unprotected sex.


The number of people infected with HIV in South Africa has risen from 5.4 million in 2008 to 6.4 million at present, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) revealed this week during the 6th South African Aids Conference, in Durban.

Women continue to be hardest-hit by the pandemic, with approximately four million women and just over two million men now living with the HI virus, HSRC said in its 2012 National HIV Household Survey.

The survey also found that HIV prevalence among unmarried people (19.2%) is twice that of married people (9.8%) and that unmarried people also have more multiple sexual partners (two or more) than married people. 

Despite these alarming figures, South Africans are not concerned enough to change their sexual habits.

No condoms please

Although more people are aware of their HIV status, condom use has declined in all age groups.

However, the decline appeared to be more pronounced among teens and young adults

“From the behavioural findings of the survey, we can see a significant decline in condom use, especially among the 15 to 24 age group,” the HSRC’s Prof Leickness Simbayi told delegates at the conference.

HSRC officials expressed concern over the lack in behaviour change reflected by the poor rates of condom use.

“Condom use is one of the most effective means to prevent HIV infection among sexually active people, and has contributed to reductions in HIV infections in South Africa and other countries,” HSRC CEO, Dr. Olive Shisana said, urging greater education on the benefits of condom-use in the form of media campaigns and at school level.

While the alarming decline in condom-use is of concern, it was, however, not entirely to blame for the increased HIV rate.

HIV-positive people live longer

Unlike in the past, when antiretroviral (ARV) drugs were hard to access, HIV-positive people were now living longer because the drugs were helping to prolong their lives.

More than two million people (some 33% women and 27% men) now have access to ARVs in South Africa, according to Medical Research Council findings.

 Prof Simbayi also noted that the number of people who were aware they had HIV had increased, which was good news, but warned that more still needed to be done to address the pandemic.

As with most things medical, men proved harder to reach than women when it came to testing, counselling and treatment.


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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