HIV in South Africa
In 2007, the U.N. reported that South Africa has the highest prevalence of HIV in the world, and that three-quarters of AIDS-related deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. There are numerous components that contribute to high levels of AIDS in a community. Among them are poverty, sexual violence, high rates of other sexually transmitted diseases and lack of access to proper healthcare.

The prevalence of HIV in South Africa is markedly high at 18.9 percent, although most people with the disease in the country are unaware that they have it. Due to the social stigma surrounding sexually transmitted diseases, many people do not want to get tested.

Groups Most Affected by HIV in South Africa

Children, unfortunately, comprise a large percentage of those affected by the disease in South Africa. It was estimated in 2016 that 320,000 children under the age of 14 are infected and only about half of them are receiving treatment. Orphans and children living in poverty are even more likely to become infected.

The lack of access to healthcare and the unhygienic living situations associated with poverty contribute to the higher rates of HIV in those communities. Additionally, parents are less likely to be educated about HIV prevention, which increases the likelihood of them spreading it to their children and other people. Without access to healthcare or knowledge about the disease, people are much less likely to get tested and take precautions to avoid infecting others.

Among young women, the prevalence of HIV in South Africa is especially high. In 2016, young women between the ages of 15 and 24 accounted for 37 percent of new infections. The lower status of women, the prevalence of sexual violence against women and higher rates of poverty among women are all believed to be factors contributing to these higher rates compared to their male peers.

Nationwide Efforts Increase Awareness and Decrease Infection Rates

Thankfully, South Africa has the largest and most extensive HIV/AIDS treatment programs in the world. The program provides antiretroviral treatment for those already infected, and prophylaxis for pregnant women to prevent them from passing HIV to their unborn child.

The organization She Conquers is part of the effort to reduce infections. This is a national prevention campaign that aims to raise awareness about the disease to young women in South Africa and to provide treatment in more areas.

She Conquers also focuses on young women living in poverty by providing educational opportunities and support to stand up against gender-based violence. Thanks to this campaign, young women will have access to the right resources to protect themselves from HIV.

In addition, nationwide testing initiatives were launched that have resulted in 10 million people getting tested for HIV in South Africa every year. South Africa is hoping to reduce new infections from 270,000 to 100,000 by the year 2022.

Thanks to the nationwide efforts to mitigate the spread of HIV, people in South Africa are getting more access to resources to prevent the disease than ever. Young women and children living in poverty have opportunities to educate themselves and avoid contracting HIV. There is a lot of hope for those infected and those in danger of becoming infected with HIV in South Africa.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Flickr