Johannesburg - New HIV infections among South Africa’s youth fell to 160,000, or 1.4 percent of the age group, in 2012, according to a report by the United Nations agency set up to tackle AIDS.

About 370,000 South Africans were infected with HIV in 2012, bringing the total number to about 6.1 million in a population of 53 million people, according to the study by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, released by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe today.

The growth in infections among young people was 2 percent in 2008, UNAIDS said.

“Increased survival rates suggest that the total number of people living with HIV in South Africa is increasing, as AIDS-related deaths and new HIV infection rates drop,” it said.

The government is seeking to cut the number of new infections by 50 percent by 2016, and to reduce deaths from tuberculosis, the leading killer among AIDS patients.

South Africa was criticised for initially failing to tackle the epidemic under former President Thabo Mbeki, who disputed the causal link between HIV and AIDS and delayed the provision of treatment.

The government has since made the fight against AIDS a priority and offers medication to more than 2.2 million people.

AIDS claimed the lives of 240,000 South Africans in 2012, according to the report. - Bloomberg News