Updated 04 July 2014

Six million South Africans living with HIV/Aids

In South Africa the estimated prevalence of HIV increased by almost 2% from 2008 to 2012, largely because of new infections and a higher survival rate.


An estimated 6.4 million people were living with HIV/Aids in 2012 in South Africa, a study by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) revealed.

The findings of the SA National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour Survey 2012, was officially launched in Pretoria. Over 38 000 people were interviewed and almost 29 000 agreed to be tested for HIV.

The estimated overall prevalence of HIV increased from 10.6% in 2008 to 12.2% in 2012.

Read: 70 000 SA children live with HIV/Aids

According to the survey, the increased prevalence of HIV in 2012 was largely due to the combined effects of new infections and a successfully expanded antiretroviral treatment (ART) programme.

The availability and use of ART had increased survival among HIV-infected individuals.

HIV-prevalence in the 15-49 year age group was 18.8% but was significantly higher in females (23.2%) than in males (14.5%).

"I am pleased to see that more people with HIV are living longer, because of the hugely expanded treatment programme launched by the government," said HSRC CEO Olive Shisana.

Universal access to treatment

"The disproportionately high HIV-prevalence levels among females in the country and high HIV-prevalence in unmarried cohabiting people however, require a rethinking of conventional approaches of HIV prevention towards strategies that address the underlying socio-cultural norms in the affected communities."

The survey noted a slight decline of HIV-prevalence among youth aged 15-24 years, from 8.7% in 2008 to 7.3% in 2012.

Read: HIV Awareness should be elevated all year

As a result of the country’s successful Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme, HIV infection levels also further decreased in infants 12 months and younger, from 2.0% in 2008 to 1.3% in 2012.

Another key finding of the 2012 Survey was that over two million people were on ART by mid-2012, suggesting that the country was on its way towards universal access to treatment.

The HIV incidence rate among female youth aged 15-24 years was over four times higher than for males in this age group (2.5% vs. 0.6%).

Compared with 2008 data, there were trends toward a decline in condom use in all age groups, except for the 50 years and older group, and an increase in multiple sexual partnerships among sexually active people aged 15 years and older in 2012.

Read more:
Funding threats to HIV treatment
HIV stigma hinders treatment

Africa reports improvement in HIV 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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