'Hospitals sitting on Aids time bomb'

Hospital systems would collapse, with one million additional bed days required within the next 10 years in the Western Cape, if attempts were not made to prevent the spread of mother-to-child-transmission of Aids.

The deputy director-general of the province's department of health, Fareed Abdullah, said at a media briefing at the residence of Western Cape premier Marthinus van Schalkwyk on Wednesday that there would be a 500 percent increase in child dependancy grants and a 100 percent increase in the number of orphans. Family household income would also collapse.

He said 25 percent of all admissions to hospitals in the province in 2010 would be due to Aids.

Abdullah said that in the Southern Cape, from Plettenberg Bay to Hermanus, there were substantial increases in the HIV/Aids epidemic.

"The HIV rate in the Helderberg area is 19 percent, second only to Khayelitsha at 22 percent." The province had embarked on a strategic Aids prevention programme.

Steps included delaying sexual debut through life skills courses in schools, treatment of sexually transmitted infections, voluntary counselling and testing, awareness and behaviour change, and the promotion of condom use.

Abdullah said 60 percent of pregnant women attending public sector maternity services had access to mother-to-child-transmission prevention programmes and by June this year the figure had increased to 90 percent. Universal coverage would be achieved by 2003.

Van Schalkwyk said if steps were not taken to deal with the pandemic the implications would be staggering.

"Aids could have a dramatic impact and we could have 30 000 children born with Aids in the Western Cape if we don't deal with it," Van Schalkwyk said. - Sapa

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