Adult life expectancy up by 11 years in rural KZN

2013-02-23 00:00

Eleven more years. That’s the increase in life expectancy for adults in rural areas in KwaZulu-Natal as the province begins to win the fight against HIV/Aids.

According to findings of a study conducted by the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies, the life expectancy for adults living in rural areas has increased from 49 years to 60 years.

The study was published yesterday in the latest issue of Science, a leading scientific journal.

The study measured trends in adult life expectancy between 2000 and 2011 among 101 000 individuals in an area of Umkhanyakude District, Northern KZN. The study indicates that the community is largely rural and 29% of adults were HIV positive in 2011.

In the early 2000’s, adult life expectancy in the community declined considerably, reaching 49,2 years in 2003.

The success is due to the scaling up of antiretroviral treatment (ART) in public sector clinics and hospitals, which started in mid-2004. Adult life expectancy then began to increase, reaching 60,5 years by 2011.

“We have known for many years that ART prolongs the lives of people with HIV, but the impact of ART scale-up on adult life expectancy at the population level hadn’t previously been measured,” said author Jacob Bor of the Africa Centre and Harvard School of Public Health.

“Before ART became widely available, most people were dying in their 30s and 40s. Now people are living to pension age and beyond.”

Acting cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams commended the work done by UKZN, and urged other universities and research institutions to embark on such studies.

Williams encouraged all citizens, particularly the youth, to visit local health facilities for voluntary counselling and testing.

“We believe that if many of us get tested, even though we may not be sick, this will help to lessen the amount of stigma associated with the HIV test and is a step towards the achievement of an HIV-free generation”, said Williams.

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