HIV - young women still at high risk

2015-12-16 06:00

ABOUT 1 000 people are infected with HIV every day in South Africa with most of these being young females aged between 15 and 24.

The shocking statistic and the fight to reduce this number was the focus at the National Research Foundation Science for Society lecture titled “Getting to Zero” at the UKZN in Durban on World Aids Day.

Professor Koleka Mlisana said one of the reasons more young women are becoming infected is because of their higher maturity levels that makes them more interested in older men. “We have found that high-school girls date men up to seven or 10 years older than them,” said Mlisane, associate professor and head of Medical Microbiology at UKZN.

Speaking on the history of HIV and Aids, Mlisane said that due to the rapid and different changes in the disease, doctors and scientists are finding it more challenging to combat.

“We have, however, significantly reduced mother-to-child transmission by more than 50%. This great feat makes it more possible for us to talk about eliminating Aids, however, our big challenge is the new infections,” said Mlisane.

Globally, 37 million people have HIV with only 15 million having access to medical care. In 2014 alone, two million people were newly infected. South Africa ranks number one in the top countries with the most HIV infected people, with Nigeria and India following behind.

Leading Aids scientist Professor Salim Abdool Karim from the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa gave insight into the way forward in controlling and eventually eliminating HIV and Aids.

“We have achieved a great deal, but we are not even half way there. There are still millions of people who need to be put on treatment,” said Karim.

Talking about the next step, Karim said the teams have looked into creating a medicated ring that would be inserted into the vagina.

He added they are looking at ways in which antibodies work and how to manipulate them, which will result in becoming one step closer to creating an HIV vaccine.

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