Aids: Where to now?

2013-12-02 10:00

HIV has been the single largest cause of premature death of adults and children for more than a decade and still continues to carry this ignominious label.

The tide, however, is turning and South Africa is finally getting on top of the problem. The most important change has been government’s decision to provide antiretroviral (ARV) treatment.

Without the treatment, almost all of those living with HIV would be dead within two years.

The ARV treatment programme is measurably reversing the effects of HIV. Life expectancy has increased from 54 to 60 years between 2009 and 2012, and infant and child mortality has decreased by 25% over the same period.

The widespread availability of ARV treatment has given hope to millions of South Africans.

Today, on World Aids?Day 2013, we will have an occasion to reflect on three counts that have placed us in a much better position than we were a decade ago.

The first is that Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has provided the clarity of vision and the drive that was essential to unlock the potential that exists within our health system to do remarkable things.

We know that in many other areas the system is failing, but when it comes to ARV treatment, its success is extraordinary.

The unsung hero in the ARV treatment success story is the National Treasury, which has always been committed to funding ARV treatment – even in the dark days of denialism.

Government has provided funding to increase the number of people on ARV treatment by an additional 1.5?million by 2016.

With the right tone from the top and the funding from the holders of the purse strings, the scene was set for doctors, nurses and pharmacists to make the programme work, patient by patient, until we arrived at two million people on treatment.

These are the real heroes of the struggle against HIV.

Though great progress has been made, we are not out of the woods by any means.

We still have a massive problem with new infections. Last year alone, there were an estimated 370?000 new infections. This means that we have to stem the tide of new infections.

Much of this work is about changing patterns of sexual behaviour and effectively implementing prevention methods that we know work.

The biggest drivers of unsafe sex are structural.

Older men with a greater accumulated risk of HIV exposure are infecting younger women.

This is a major driver of HIV in the country and accounts for a significant proportion of new infections.

The age-sex disparity is so marked that we now see that the infection rates in young women between the ages of 15 and 19 are three times higher than their male counterparts.

This age-sex disparity is often driven by the poverty of young women and results in transactional sex.

Gender inequality and gender-based violence are also key drivers of HIV transmission. Alcoholism and binge drinking among young people is well described to be associated with HIV infection.

At the SA National Aids Council, we take the view that we could achieve a great deal more if we did the things that we know work and did them well when it comes to prevention.

Promoting the use of condoms in ways that significantly increase their use in a manner not seen before is high on our agenda.

The two most effective prevention methods available to us at this time are HIV testing and medical male circumcision.

Testing should be available in the community and through all NGOs.?Medical male circumcision reduces the risk of HIV transmission in men by up to 60%.

The department of health has set a target of circumcising 4.2?million men by 2016.

»?Abdullah is the CEO of the SA National Aids Council

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.