Cape Town - There are several indicators that there has been a substantial decrease in the number of Aids cases in South Africa. These include a new study by Old Mutual, which shows that there has been a decrease of 19 percent in the number of people lodging death claims.

This, together with an increase in the number of patients receiving antiretroviral treatment (ART), and a decrease in the number of new HIV infections, suggests South Africa could be turning the corner in the fight against Aids.

In 2008 there were 8.3 death claims per 1 000 people insured with Old Mutual. By 2011, this had decreased to 6.8 per 1 000.

Old Mutual also reported that South Africans are living longer on average, which also suggests that fewer South Africans are dying of Aids-related illnesses.

“The tide may have turned,” says Old Mutual group assurance actuary Neil Parkin. “The recent rise in life expectancy would suggest that antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) have had a positive impact.”

According to the South African Institute of Race Relations South Africa Survey 2012, 1 058 399 adults received ART in 2010. In 2005, 101 416 adults received treatment.

Together with an increase in those receiving ART treatment, the number of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa has also been falling. The latest UNAids report states that the number of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa has dropped by 26 percent since 1997.

According to the latest figures released by the Medical Research Council, life expectancy in South Africa has increased from 56.5 years in 2009 to 60 years in 2011.

Parkin says the reduction in death claims has been particularly noticeable among low-income groups, which traditionally have higher levels of infection, like mineworkers. “Early ARV treatment seems to be the real key (in reducing mortality),” says Parkin.

Parkin notes that high-income earners, who generally live longer than low-income employees, have not seen as marked an increase in life expectancy.

Parkin notes that the number of people living with HIV in South Africa is still extremely high compared to other countries and life expectancy is lower.

And, although South Africa’s life expectancy has increased, it is still lower than in was in 1990. - Cape Times