Picture: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters/African News Agency (ANA)

#SAAIDS2019: Shocking HIV stats recorded in SA

By ASANDA SOKANYILE Time of article published Jun 24, 2019

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Cape Town - Over 11 870 new HIV infections among young women and girls were recorded by the Western Cape government between January 2018 and March 2019 alone.

According to the provincial Department of Health, this equates to an average of 791 new infections per month, while nationally 1200 new infections were recorded weekly.

Equally shocking is the number of girls aged between 10 and 14 - at 312 - who were recorded as having given birth between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019. And 10675 deliveries by girls aged between 15 and 19 were recorded over the same 12-month period nationally.

Maret Lesch, spokesperson for the Western Cape Health department told Weekend Argus that key vulnerable population groups, as confirmed by the recent Aids Conference, remained young women and girls, sex workers, men who have sex with men, and substance users.

An 18-year-old single mother said “experimenting” and a lack of sexual education led her to fall pregnant at the age of 14.

“I didn’t know I would fall pregnant; it was something my friends and I would joke about, but then we started having sex with the boys in our group. I didn’t know I was pregnant until I was about six months along. My mother was upset with me and I felt bad that I had disappointed her, but the baby is here now and I have learnt a huge lesson,” she said.

Meanwhile, a 34-year-old sex worker who spoke to Weekend Argus on condition of anonymity said she used sex as a means to an end and was aware of the risks of her “job” but had “no choice”.

“I have tried looking for work but nothing has come up in over three years. I have children to feed and I had to make the hard choice to come and work the streets,” she said, as she flagged down potential clients at the busy Spine Road intersection.

The 9th annual Aids Conference, which was held in Durban last week, heard that the higher education sector was also under attack, with 14% engaged in transactional or intergenerational sex and 41% of students engaged in multiple sexual partners, increasing the rate of HIV infection.

According to the World Health Organisation, Aids is the leading cause of death among young people aged 10 to 24 in Africa, while over 30% of all new HIV infections globally have been estimated to occur among adolescents.

South Africa has the largest HIV epidemic in the world, with 19% of the global number of people living with HIV, 15% of new infections, and 11% of Aids-related deaths.

According to the Thembisa model - a mathematical model of the South African HIV epidemic which was designed to answer policy questions relating to HIV prevention and treatment - the percentage of infected people in the Western Cape was 6.7% in 2017/2018.

Since 2017, Thembisa has been the source on which the official UNAIDS estimates for South Africa are based. The Thembisa developers at UCT work in partnership with UNAIDS and the SA Department of Health to produce these estimates.

Weekend Argus 

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