'A quarter of new HIV infections in young women due to gender-based violence'

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Health Minister Joe Phaahla. Photo by Luba Lesolle/Gallo Images
Health Minister Joe Phaahla. Photo by Luba Lesolle/Gallo Images


Young South African women continue to account for most of new HIV infections in the country.

Speaking at the 24th International Aids Conference in Montreal, Canada, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla said while the country had made remarkable progress against HIV and Aids, new infections remained high.

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Over 150 girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 24 are infected daily.

He said:

Approximately 20-25% of new HIV infections in young women in South Africa are because of gender-based violence.

“Additionally, early sexual debut and age-disparate relationships are common for adolescent girls and young women. Genotyping shows that such relationships fuel the cycle of HIV transmission in South Africa.”

An intensified focus on HIV prevention was a priority for the country to achieve the 2025 prevention coverage target of 95% and the target of fewer than 74 000 new infections by the same year.

“Though South Africa has a generalised HIV epidemic, it is characterised by distinct sub-epidemics. The national HIV prevalence is estimated at 53% among women sex workers, 25.7% among men who have sex with men, and programmatic data indicates HIV positivity as high as 49% among transgender populations. We continue to prioritise a precision prevention approach for key and priority populations.”

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South Africa has launched a three-year National Youth HIV Prevention campaign that will focus on the 9.6 million young people aged 15 to 24 in and out of schools, including the 700 000 youth living with HIV.

“The campaign seeks to reach all young people in their diversity to ensure that adolescent boys and young men, youth with disabilities and youth living with HIV are not left behind in the country’s response to HIV, TB and STIs. This youth-led HIV-prevention campaign aims to strengthen the integration of quality health and social services with youth development programmes that combat poverty and other inequalities.”

He added the country was also developing the fifth generation national strategic plan for HIV, TB and STIs from 2023 to 2028.

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