22 November 2007

HIV infections declining: Govt

SA is experiencing a possible decline of new HIV infections, the department of health has said in the wake of a UN report that said SA has the highest HIV prevalence on the planet.

South Africa was experiencing a possible decline of new HIV infections, the Health Director General Thami Mseleku said on Wednesday.

Speaking on the same day of the release of a United Nations report stating that South Africa had the highest prevalence of HIV in the world, Mseleku said there were signs that there was a turnaround in the number of new HIV infections.

He cited the national HIV and Syphilis prevalence survey which showed a decrease in the prevalence of HIV amongst pregnant women, and also a decline from 15.9 percent in 2005 to 13.7 percent in 2006 in the prevalence of the virus amongst those 20 years old and younger.

Some increases
While there was progress amongst younger people, the HIV prevalence in the older age groups remained at levels similar to 2005 and in some instances there were increases.

Mseleku said SA's position on top of the UN list with countries with the highest HIV prevalence was known.

"The focus on us being the highest is fine, but we should also focus on countries where they felt they have dealt with this problem and they are actually facing rising incidents," he said.

Signs of a turnaround
"With the evidence we have, we are seeing possible signs of a turnaround of infections; young people seem to be responding," he said.

Mseleku said, however, that the country would continue with its focus on prevention.

More than three-quarters of Aids-related deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa, the UNAIDS annual report on the epidemic said.

Southern Africa was the worst affected in the region with national adult HIV prevalence over 15 percent in eight countries.

"While there is evidence of a significant decline in the national HIV prevalence in Zimbabwe, the epidemics in most of the rest of the sub-region have either reached or are approaching a plateau."

Stable or declining
The UN data showed that adult HIV prevalence was either stable or has started to decline in many parts of Africa.

Worldwide, new HIV infections were levelling off, and of the 2.5 million people newly infected overall, more than half came from sub-Saharan Africa. – (Sapa)

Read more:
HIV/Aids Centre
SA has highest HIV rate

November 2007


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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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