A choir performs at the 9th SA Aids Conference at the Durban ICC this week. Sibonelo Ngcobo African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - The Department of Health in KwaZulu-Natal has vowed to go back to the drawing board to look at new ways in educating the youth, especially women, about HIV and Aids.

Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu said the fact that there was still a high rate of infections in KZN showed that its programmes were not as effective as had been hoped.

She was speaking at the SA Aids Conference, which was hosted at the Durban ICC this week.

Simelane-Zulu said intergenerational relationships - between older men and young women - was still one of the major contributing factors to the high infection rate among young women.

She said a district in KZN had the highest prevalence of HIV infection on the continent, and this was a worrying factor. “We have to evolve with the times and do things that resonate with the younger generation,” she said.

“There are a number of issues that we need to look at, including the issue of circumcision, and we will work to strengthen that programme.

“We are worried about the issue of stigma (against those with HIV) as a province.

“It will be important to strengthen our relationship with society because this is how we will be able to address the issue of stigma.”

One of the outcomes from this year’s conference was a success story from Eshowe, in northern KZN.

According to research from Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) the town had achieved its UNAids target of 90-90-90 this year, ahead of its deadline, which was set for 2020. The target of 90-90-90 means 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all HIV-positive people will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression, meaning, the HIV in their blood is so low it’s undetectable.

MSF project co-ordinator Ellie FordKamara said it had focused on the Eshowe area as it had the highest prevalence of infections.

“We took on this area and worked with the Department of Health. We wanted to ensure that our efforts would make a difference,” she said.

FordKamara said its findings were taken from two studies.

The project was started in 2011 and in 2013 a population-based survey was conducted. Another survey was conducted in 2018.

According to MSF representative in Eshowe Dr Liesbet Ohler it had shown that it was possible to reach its targets in an area with one of the highest HIV infection rates in the country.

The MSF noted that while the incidence of HIV decreased among women aged 15-29 from 2.9% to 1.2%, the figure remained high and pointed to the continued risk faced by adolescent girls and young women.

MSF medical co-ordinator for South Africa Dr Laura Trivino said it had found it difficult to reach out to young men and include them in its programme.

“More than half of young men aged 15-29 diagnosed with HIV are still not on treatment,” she said.

FordKamara said KZN still had the highest infection rate in South Afrcia, with eThekwini having the highest rate of infection in KZN.

This, FordKamara said, was due to “sugar daddies”, migration of communities for employment and the normalisation in society of men having more than one sexual partner.

The Mercury