By Charndré Emma Kippie
A decline in infections
In 2020, almost 1 million people across the globe died from HIV-related causes, and around 1.5 million people acquired HIV.
Zooming in a bit closer to home, it has been recorded that South Africa has the largest HIV epidemic in the world – with 7.7 million people currently living with HIV.
However, in recent months, HIV incidence has slowly been declining across sub-Saharan Africa. This comes as a result of a much-needed step up in preventative and transmission-blocking treatments.
- 37.7 million [30.2 million–45.1 million] people, globally, were living with HIV in 2020.
- One in five of the world’s 37.7 million HIV-infected people lives in South Africa.
- 28.2 million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy as of 30 June 2021.
- AIDS-related mortality has declined by 53% among women and girls and by 41% among men and boys since 2010.
- In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls accounted for 63% of all new HIV infections in 2020.
- 39% of new HIV infections were documented in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Each week in South Africa, 2,000 girls and women aged 15 to 34 are infected with HIV.
Making progress through ARVs
The reduction in HIV transmission rates can largely be attributed to the efficacious national antiretroviral treatment (ART) programme and successful preventative tools. Researchers note that they are witnessing dynamic changes in the age distribution of HIV incidence in South Africa. Results in HIV studies are indicating that new infections are concentrating in those 25 years of age and older.
Over the past four decades, we have witnessed amazing scientific and medical progress. Unfortunately, however, the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS still exists. Many infected individuals choose to avoid testing, and some even die in shame.
One thing is clear: adequate knowledge and treatment is not reaching the most vulnerable, and inequality hinders efforts to change the trajectory of the epidemic.
Just a few weeks ago Judi Nwokedi who is the Founder of LoveLife, and Knut Siefert – Board member of the AIDS Consortium, weighed in on the state of AIDS in South Africa and the world.
“Is it possible to avert the looming threat of death for 140,000 people in 2022 from TB, cryptococcal meningitis and other causes of HIV-related deaths? Absolutely. We need to break down this war into bite-size battles”, they exclaimed.
“Let 2022 be the year of course correction. A surge of determination and energy is demanded to reach the finish line. Our new approach requires speed, ambition and urgency to set attainable and time-bound targets.”
They concluded that:
“Every person saved from an AIDS-related death is one more productive member of society able to contribute to the community. Every person living with undetectable HIV levels has the opportunity to live long enough to witness an AIDS-free generation.”
*For more information and news on HIV/AIDS, please visit: https://sanac.org.za/
The National Strategic Plan
The National Strategic Plan (NSP) 2017 – 2022 serves as a roadmap for the next stage of our journey towards a future where HIV, TB and STIs are no longer public health problems. This plan sets out the destinations – or goals- of our shared journey and establishes landmarks in the form of specific measurable objectives.
The NSP aims to achieve its ambitious targets by:
- Intensifying the focus on geographic areas and populations most severely affected by the epidemics.
- Using a combination of interventions that have proved to deliver high impact
- Strengthening systems and initiating processes to provide the foundation necessary for higher performance.
A strong focus of this NSP is improving the prevention of HIV infection among adolescent girls and young women because of the extremely high rate of infection in this section of the population. Not only does early infection irreversibly shape the lives of hundreds of thousands of women from their teens and early twenties onward, but reaching our national targets for reducing HIV is unthinkable without putting young women first.
Five-year NSPs for HIV, TB and STIs are an established tool for directing and coordinating our national effort and ensuring our interventions are relevant, based on evidence and guided by methods that have been shown to be effective. However, this particular NSP comes at a critical stage in our protracted effort to overcome HIV, TB and STIs.
How to prevent further spread of AIDS
Society can lower the risk of HIV infection by limiting exposure to risk factors. Key approaches for HIV prevention, which are often used in combination, include:
- Testing and counselling for HIV and STIs
- Testing and counselling for linkages to tuberculosis (TB) care
- Male and female condom use
- Voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC)
- Use of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) for prevention
- Harm reduction for people who inject and use drugs
- The elimination of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV
*Check out the latest edition of the Public Sector Leaders publication here.
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