Let’s talk about HIV, baby!

2014-04-01 17:00

Don’t have time to read the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) report into HIV prevalence in South Africa? Thembi Wolfram looks at 10 things you need to know about the report, which was released today. It looks at the incidence of the disease and people’s sexual behaviour.

1. The HIV rate increased from 10.6% in 2008 to 12.2 % in 2012. Survivors who are living longer than before with the virus are part of that 12.2% – proof, says the council, that the country’s antiretroviral programme is working.

2. Race, class, sex and province are relevant to the risk of infection. Statistically, the person most at risk of contracting HIV is a black woman in her mid-20s to mid-40s living in an informal settlement in KwaZulu-Natal.

3. Two million people now have access to antiretrovirals. Researchers say South Africa is on its way to universal treatment.

4. Sadly, our knowledge about HIV is declining. In the 2008 survey, one third of the interviewees knew how HIV is transmitted. The rate dropped to 26.8% in 2012.

5. Only 36.2% had, at the time of being interviewed, used a condom during their most recent sexual encounter.

6. Programmes on the prevention of mother to child transmission have been very successful. The infection rate among babies up to the age of 12 months declined from 2% in 2008 to 1.3% in 2012.

7. Fewer young people are infected. In the 15 to 24 age group, the rate fell from 8.7% in 2008 to 7.3% in 2012.

But girls in that age range are four times more at risk of infection than boys in the same range.

8. Our attitude towards HIV-positive people is, overall, positive. For more than 80% of people surveyed, a relative, teacher or shopkeeper who disclosed that they were HIV positive would not be ostracised.

9. Voluntary medical male circumcision is on the rise: from 14.6% in 2008 to 18.6% in 2012. Circumcision does not eliminate the risk of transmission, but it does lower it.

10. Three out of four people surveyed thought they were at low risk of contracting HIV. Ten percent of them were infected without knowing it.

About the survey:

The Human Sciences Research Council questioned 38 000 people in 11 000 households. Twenty-nine thousand interviewees agreed to take an HIV test. For the first time, the survey had a “take all” approach, questioning all household members as partners, parents and children.

Previous HSRC studies took place in 2002, 2005 and 2008. The survey is funded by the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief, the South African National Aids Council, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the HSRC and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

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